By Aminata S Kuyateh
A former acting finance director of the Basse Area Council, Lamin Suso, has informed the Local Government Commission to disregard and discard all the vouchers he brought to the commission because they were all defective.
Suso and juniors at the finance department of the Council came under intense scrutiny by the commission probing into dealings of the councils around the country.
On day six of his appearance, Suso admitted some financial malpractices while working at the Basse Area Council.
The internal audit exercise on the council uncovered that members of the Finance Unit jointly withdrew over D51M which they could not account for.
Some of these withdrawals were from three ward development accounts.
Suso said his CEO Ousman Touray and Councilor Omar Garry withdrew D75,000 from the Baja Kunda Ward Development account while the CEO and former vice chairman Youba Jawara withdrew D100,000 from the Sabi Development Ward account in addition to another D45,000 withdrawn by CEO Ousman Touray and Ward Councilor Ousainou Janneh from the Gambisara Development Ward account.
Suso said he participated in the withdrawal, but he was not a signatory.
“All these withdrawals did not follow due process,” Suso told bemused common members.
Suso said the money was taken from the three ward accounts because the Basse Area Council was faced with the problem of lack money to fund its activities.
“What were these monies meant for?” Lawyer Patrick Gomez asked.”They were not meant to fund council activities,” Suso replied.
“Why did you unlawfully withdraw the money?” Lawyer Patrick Gomez asked.”It was an internal arrangement,” said Suso.
“Which of the council activities did you fund?” Lawyer Patrick Gomez asked.”I cannot remember, but it was wrong,” Suso answered.
“You knew it was wrong and you went ahead to make the withdrawals,” Lawyer Gomez told Suso.
Commenting on the auditors’ report that withdrawals had the potential of diverting the funds for personal use since the withdrawals were not authorized, the witness disagreed with the auditor, saying the finding was not correct.
“We are asking for documentation. Where is the evidence to show us that the monies were used to fund council activities?” Lawyer Gomez said.
The witness said he will endeavour to look for the documents and furnish the Commission. He added that the monies were refunded into the respective ward development committees.
On how the refund was made, Lamin Suso said the D75,000 taken from Bajakunda Ward was given to the ward councillor Omar Garry in cash. For the D100,000 taken from the Sabi Ward Account, the witness said a cheque was issued in the name of one Kaddijatou Jallow.
When asked who this Kaddijatou Jallow was, the witness said Kaddijatou is a resident of Basse and a businesswoman. For the Gambisara Ward, the witness said the money was given to the ward councillor.
“So, when the auditor said there was no evidence of refund. Do you agree?” Lawyer Gomez asked.
The witness maintained his position that the monies were refunded, but admitted that the monies were not paid into the accounts of the three wards. After question and answer, Lamin Suso later admitted that the auditors were right that there is no evidence of refund.
He said he did not advise the council to take monies from the ward accounts but stated that he participated in the whole process.
“Was there consultation before the monies were withdrawn?” Chairperson Jainaba Bah asked.
“No,” the witness answered.
Lamin Suso admitted that there is no evidence to show that the monies were judiciously used for council activities.
Lamin Suso said it is normal for Basse Area Council to take loans from individuals and repay when they have money. He added that the practice of the Basse Area Council taking money from people is not new. When asked the procedure for taking loans, Lamin Suso said it starts from a document which is also sent to the general council and later to the ministry responsible for local government for approval.
When asked why the Basse Area Council was not following the due process of taking loan, Lamin Suso said: “If we follow the normal procedure, we will not get what we want.”