By Omar Bah
The Chief Executive Officer of the Brikama Area Council, Modou Jonga, who was last week suspended by a council resolution for alleged incompetence which he denied, has in turn accused Chairman Yankuba Darboe of awarding contracts without following due process and increasing allowances without seeking council resolution.
The chairman replied by revealing mind-boggling cases of alleged naked corruption under the watch of CEO Jonga.
According to Jonga, Yankuba Darboe on 18 October 2023, allegedly authorised payment in the sum of D148, 000.00 as an honorarium for 49 compliance officers. “Significantly, the said payment did not fall within the current approved estimates (budget) of the Council, thereby violating Section 504 of the Financial and Accounting Manual for Local Government Authorities, 2009, and Section 13 (1) of the Local Government Finance and Audit Act, 2004, respectively. Furthermore, the payment to the compliance officers who are not formally appointed or contracted by the Council and are not provided with a written term of reference and was done by the Head of the Internal Audit Unit, which is not part of his functions and duties,” he said.
He alleged that on 9 August 2023, the General Council, spearheaded by Chairman Darboe, overrided the contract committee’s request for more time to diligently scrutinise three proposals incorrectly solicited by the office of the chairman for the re-introduction of a digital tax administration system.
“The general council further took a unanimous decision to select Pay-GAM Limited for the implementation of a digital tax administration system without due process,” the CEO alleged.
He further alleged that on 27 July, 2023, the General Council, headed by the chairman, passed a unanimous resolution for a loan policy for only council members, thereby not considering the staff of the council and thus being discriminatory in scope.
“The resolution was passed against the advice of the Chief Executive Officer for an all-inclusive loan policy with standard parameters. The loan policy, which was not endorsed by the Minister for Lands, Regional Government, and Religious Affairs, was investment-insensitive and did not indicate the interest the Council would accrue from the loan policy,” he noted.
Interference in staff matters
“The Chairman, since sworn-in office, has made multiple attempts to interfere in staff matters such as redeployments and recruitments without due process, contrary to his functions and duties as stipulated under Section 15(1)(2)(3) of the Local Government Act, 2002,” he alleged.
Jonga accused the chairman of entering into a verbal contract with Finish Tech Construction Company to provide two vacuum tank trucks to drain flooded markets, secondary roads, and streets during the rainy season for the months of June, July, August, September, and October 2023 without the involvement of the contract committee.
“This verbal contract will cost the Council the sum of D1,027,000.00,” he said.
He said on 13 July, 2023, under the leadership of the Chairman, the General Council passed a unanimous resolution to increase its meeting allowance from D1,500 to D2,500 biweekly.
“The monthly allowance for the chairman is increased from D18,000 to D25,000; the deputy chairman’s monthly allowance increased from D9,500 to D20,000; and the councillor’s monthly allowance increased from D6,500 to D15,000, contrary to the approved allowance schedule issued by the ministry of regional government and in violation of Section 12 of the Local Government Finance and Audit Act, 2004,” he claimed.
He alleged that, against the advice of the contract committee on 12 July 2023, and subsequently by the Chief Executive Officer, the Chairman authorised the internal printing of tickets for the ‘Seneya’ project in serious violation of the Gambia Public Printing Cooperation Act and the Government’s Executive Directive dated December 29, 2018 that grant exclusive rights to GPPC for the printing of all revenue-earning receipts. “The ‘Seneya’ project, a collaborative partnership with private waste companies, was launched on July 18, 2023. The tickets are printed in the categories of D15, D20, and D40, respectively, and the internal audit unit is yet to submit its report on the quantity of the tickets produced and the amount of revenue generated,” he alleged.
He alleged that a recent General Council resolution presided over by the Chairman has entrusted compliance officers to collect revenue and has equally failed to take necessary and sufficient measures for the individuals to duly account for all money in his or her custody or control, contrary to the advice of the CEO and in violation of Section 120, Subsection (2) of the Local Government Act, 2002.
“The head of the Internal Audit Unit, who is overseeing the compliance team, has also failed to take steps in view of Section 120, Subsection (3) of the Local Government Act, 2002,” he claimed.
He alleged that in the absence of a formal final decision of the Local Government Service Commission on the recommendation of the general council, on November 1, 2023, the Chairman acted unlawfully to instruct the banks without any administrative authority to change the current signatories to the accounts of the Council.
Reacting to the allegations made by CEO Jonga, BAC chairman Yankuba Darboe said the CEO is bittered by his (Darboe’s) aggressive nature of fighting endemic corruption.
He said the idea of introducing compliance officers on a voluntary basis was meant to close the leakages in the collection of revenue.
“We got that idea from KMC, and we have seen a big difference. These compliance officers are not employed by the council; they are volunteers brought in by councillors. Some of them came and went, and those who stayed, we gave them honorarium to cover their transport costs because every day they have to travel to accompany these collectors who were stealing our money, and that was happening under his (Jonga’s) watch,” Darboe said.
“We hired the septic tanks for D20,000 a week, and they do 10 to 20 trips a week, and that was an emergency situation because it was raining, and for the first time, people in Brikama were not complaining of water flooding the market for days and months. This year, whenever it floods, we clear it, and those companies he is talking about—not a single penny has been paid to them up to date, and their septic tanks have been coming. It was the best deal we could get, and it was not done in a rush. All these things were done in the service of the people,” he said.
He said the increment in allowances was decided by the previous council.
“They decided that their allowances were small, and they increased them to D2500. They were able to defend it, and it was approved in the budget, but he Jonga single-handedly decided not to pay them. I told him, who are you to make that decision for council? I said no; you have to do it. The money was already budgeted, and if it is not paid to the councillors, he and the finance director will steal that money. That is why I insisted it should be paid. We had to pass a council resolution for that money to be paid. Who is Jonga to say this is not going to be paid?” he asked.
“He (Jonga) single-handedly decided that the Geology payment was not going to happen because elections were coming, and if he paid, it would be seen as inducement, and this is the money that is supposed to go to those wards. He delayed the payment to the point that the whole money of Geology disappeared, and I keep reminding him that decisions are made by the council, not him as the CEO, but he has been overstepping his bounds by making these decisions individually,” he said.
Chairman Darboe alleged that the council has realised that CEO Jonga has been pilfering a lot of money from the council’s land transfer because land transfer documents used to be signed by the CEO and the Chairman, but Jonga single-handedly removed the Chairman as signatory. “He has been signing all land transfers from last year to date, and only he knows where that money is going. Now, we have to go to Physical Planning to get the full detail from there to counter-check it with the money he has been providing to the council because there is so much money they are pilfering. CEO Jonga is the biggest thief and that would soon be exposed,” he said.
Commenting on suggestions that he has been aggressive, Darboe argued: “I am aggressive with him because I found them to be corrupt and they want to corrupt me, and I refused to be corrupted by them. You know how many times he and the director of finance came to my office, begging me? A lot of times. The first issue I had with him was when I asked him to give me the council’s bank statements, and he refused. I asked him why, and he said because he is the accounting officer and I am not the accounting officer. But I am the head of council, and I need to know what is happening in council,” he added.
He said over D7 million of mining royalty was paid to the council in 2020 and D10 million in 2021, while only D3.8 million was paid out to the wards.
“In 2022, D13 million was paid; he Jonga decided not to give the wards a single penny, and when we came in 2023, during a council meeting, the councillor for Sanyang, Boto Bojang raised the issue, but Jonga said he didn’t give them the money because it coincided with elections. No reason was given. He toldus at that meeting that the only money they got from Geology during that period was D21 million, so I took it upon myself to write to Geology, who came back to say they paid D33 million. Jonga said he invested it in an audit trail account at Ecobank, but we realised that only D7 million was put into that account,” Chairman Darboe said.
Jah Oil Loan
Chairman Darboe said Jonga took a loan from Jah Oil without consulting the council. “He wants to do all these things and still wants me to laugh with him. Hell no.”
Jonga however said the loan acquired from Jah Oil Company Limited was fully accounted for, and it was used for the payment of salaries for the month of November 2022.
On the royalties from mining, CEO Jonga said: “I can confirm that the sum of D33,713,176.01 has been received for the period July, 2019 to December, 2022, and I have formally acknowledged receipt of these payments into our accounts as a demonstration of transparency and accountability. Over the period, the sum of D11,868,435.97 has been disbursed to Kafuta, Giboroh, Gunjur, Pirang, Kembujeh, Bulock, and Sanyang, each receiving a sum of D1,014,285.71 in July 2023, while the Kartong Ward Development Committee received D950,100.00.”
In addition, Jonga added that in 2021, the sum of D3,818,525 was paid to three wards, namely Kartong, Pirang, and Gunjur Wards, respectively.
“Kartong Ward Development Committee received the sum of D1,051,205, Pirang Ward Development Committee received the sum of D767,320, and Gunjur Ward Development Committee received the sum of D2,000,000.00, respectively. In the same vein, the sum of D21,506,734.95 was spent on the implementation of four important access roads within Brikama over the period 2020–2022. The contract ledgers for these projects are attached for your reference,” he said.
Withdrawals in 2023
Jonga said only the sum of D8,902,272.44 was withdrawn for the period January–June 2023 and not over D50 million as claimed in the resolution.
“The amounts withdrawn include payments for salaries, loan repayments, and payments for works, goods, and services (stationery, air tickets, gratuity payments, and fuel supply),” he added.
Appointment of the Jeng family
Asked to comment on the appointment of the Jeng family, CEO Jonga said: “I have not acted inappropriately in endorsing the cited appointments contained in the resolution of the General Council dated October 25, 2023. The staff (Omar Saidykhan, Malick Jeng, and Sulayman Jeng) were appointed in 2012 and 2014, respectively, by a decentralised Local Government Service Commission at the time. Evidently and contrary to the assertion in the resolution, I did not have any direct or indirect influence in the work of the decentralised Local Service Commission’s appointments at the time,” he said.