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GAMBIA: POLITICAL MEDDLING, ACCORDING TO FORMER CEO OF BAC, HINDERED WORK AT THE COUNCIL

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Former Brikama Area Council CEO Mam Sait Jallow testified before the Local Government Commission of Inquiry that political meddling had an impact on her and her team’s ability to do their jobs.

Mr. Jallow clarified that some of the Council’s technicians were chosen by politicians, and that someone would include them if they wanted to take specific actions. He said that some people had deceived the Council and that action could not be taken against them. Jallow continued, saying that occasionally the Council would wish to take action against the offenders—sacking, suspending, or adopting other measures—but other people would approach him and obstruct the procedure.

The Commission’s chair, Jainaba Bah, advised Jallow that it would be unfair to the Gambian people to claim political meddling as the reason for their work stoppage, as they have tools like the Local Government Act, the Local Government Audit and Finance Act, and the Financial Manual for Local Government Councils at their disposal to take the appropriate action.

Why you did not use them is beyond me. You had the option to write them. It was necessary for you to take corrective action against them. She informed the witness, “You cannot choose what you do; the law does not permit you to do so.”

“You worked for a company to provide services. I believe that the so-called political meddling needs to be reconsidered. Individuals ought to act. Personally, I refuse to purchase that. This occurred in 2018 and 2019 and has been repeated annually, according to Chairperson Bah.

Witness Jallow concurred that he should have disciplined revenue collectors for manipulating receipts, as they were at the time unable to account for Council’s earnings. Jallow continued, saying that audit reports were how he learned about some of the issues.

Lead Counsel Patrick Gomez recalled that he had stated in his own response to the audit query that the matter will be resolved right now.

Lead Counsel Gomez remarked, “You keep saying you will solve things, but you solved nothing because the auditor said the issue was not resolved.”

He said to the witness that he doesn’t need an outside auditor to be aware of these problems because he has an efficient system in place.

Yes, I concur. This is the reason I told you the system wasn’t working,” the witness stated. He added that the internal audit unit of the Council wasn’t working well when he took office in 2014 because the system was still relatively new.With only three employees in that unit, he continued, “there was a capacity gap.” However, he added, they are working to find a solution so the unit can continue to operate.

The witness stated that he began working for the Councils in 1979, initially being employed by the Basse Area Council before being transferred to the Brikama Area Council in 1989 or 1990. He claimed to have served as the BAC’s CEO from 1996 to 1998 and from 2014 till his retirement in 2019.

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