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GAMBIA: FORMER CEO OF BASSE AREA COUNCIL OUSMAN TOURAY TESTIFIES ON PRE-FINANCE ACTIVITIES

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Ousman Touray, the former CEO of The Basse Area Council (BsAC), testified Tuesday on the suspected pre-financing of council operations by the ex-finance director of the Basse Area Council.
Lamin Suso, the former finance director at Basse, said he used his personal money to pre-fund a number of events at the Basse Area Council totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Mr Touray testified that pre-financing of council operations had been occurring at the Basse Area Council before to his appointment as CEO, and that when he was hired as CEO in 2019, he noticed it and put a stop to it in January 2020.
In addition, he stated that expenses were occasionally made in his absence and that he would check them when he returned. “When I am not satisfied with the expenditure, I don’t sign the voucher,” he told me.

He said he used to sign blank checks with no amount written on them, which the then-director of finance would collect and cash. He also said that the last signed blank check he left was in October 2021.

However, when challenged and cornered by Chairperson Jainaba Bah, the witness said that his testimony was incorrect. “I could not remember at any point in time that the director of finance pre-financing the activities of the Council,” he said.

He therefore rejected Lamin Suso’s evidence and labeled it as false since he had no knowledge of when or where Lamin Suso pre-financed any of the council’s actions.
Commissioner Oreme E. Joiner interfered at one point and informed the witness, “Signing a blank cheque is like signing your death warrant.”

Commissioner Joiner was correct, according to the witness. Joiner then questioned the witness whether it was prudent given his years of service, to which the witness said that it was not. The witness stated that he left Lamin Suso with 9 signed blank checks.

“How influential was Lamin Suso over you?” Commissioner Joiner inquired.

“I don’t have any answers.” “Most of the time, when he brings cheques to me and I sign them, it is only later that I realize I took a risk,” Ousman Touray said.

The witness then said that they used to borrow from businesspeople to pay their salaries, but he quickly added that there was a letter in 2021 prohibiting them from borrowing from businessmen to pay their salaries. The 2021 Memo emphasized that “pre-financing must cease immediately.”

But, after a harsh question-and-answer session with Commissioner Joiner, he acknowledged to violating the memo, claiming that he misinterpreted the document, which he himself drafted.

Mr Touray added that he used to perform weekly checks on the council’s finances to understand the spendings made, but that after Lamin Suso took over in February 2021, that was no longer feasible since Lamin Suso did not produce the books. He confirmed that Suso’s predecessor delivered the books to him on Fridays and that he studied them over the weekend.

“That was impossible with Suso; it was difficult.” “You’ll ask for the books, and he won’t give them to you,” the ex-CEO claimed.

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