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Sunday, June 23, 2024

Barrow defends inquiry into local councils

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By Omar Bah 

President Adama Barrow has defended his government’s decision to setup a commission of inquiry into the conduct of the Regional Government Councils and connected matters.

Speaking shortly after the commission members administered their oaths at State House on Friday, the Gambian leader said the establishment of the commission is appropriate, considering the nature of the irregularities brought to the government’s attention about the operations of local councils.

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President Barrow said the Ministry of Lands and Regional Government has received complaints from four local councils about alleged financial and administrative irregularities.

“I deemed it necessary to establish a commission of inquiry to investigate the alleged irregularities,” Barrow said.

He said the government is committed to the principles of accountability and transparency.

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“Thus, we have to take proper steps to strengthen professionalism in all public institutions, including the local councils,” he added.

Further justifying his claims, President Barrow argued that the Banjul City Council is yet to submit its annual budget to the ministry for scrutiny as provided for by the Regional Government Finance and Audit Act 2004.

“Also, at the Kanifing Municipal Council, there has not been a CEO and director of finance for nearly two years. Furthermore, oversight measures including a court ruling and directives from the Local Government Service Commission to institute suitable procedures are still being in-depth. These circumstances, among other factors, have seriously undermined the administration and social service delivery obligations of the said councils,” he added.

However, the BCC has denied that they have not submitted their budget. Mayor Rohey Lowe told the media that the president must have been misinformed.

Barrow went ahead to argue that government has a “huge responsibility to restore and maintain normality at all levels of the establishment, it bears a statutory oversight obligation over councils and has been duly advised to adopt appropriate measures to address the irregularities, complaints against them.”

Addressing the commissioners, President Barrow added: “As a commission of inquiry, your task includes conducting a holistic and fair review of the financial and administrative operations of councils with the objective of improving their governance and service delivery components based on standard procedures.”

He said the commission is tasked to investigate and present its report within three months to guide the government on the adoption of relevant policies and administrative options.

“The outcome of the investigation will further guide the administration policies and procedures of councils and clearly spell out the relationship between elected and appointed council officials,” he said.

For her part, Jainaba Bah-Sambou, the chairperson of the commission, said: “We believe that this is a great responsibility, we humbly accept with full understanding of the task bestowed upon us. Your Excellency, we pledge to do our utmost during the period that we serve to warrant your trust, confidence, and support in the execution of our duty.”

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