In August last year, KMC General Council suspended its CEO for alleged acts of corruption and requested the relevant authorities to investigate. In response the Minister responsible for local government Musa Drammeh stifled the process and caused the police to attempt to forcefully reinstate the CEO, instead of supporting the due process to unfold. Following this, the Minister went ahead to also send inspectors to KMC.
Since then, the Minister has not yet publicly released any report from his inspectors so as to inform the general public about the state of affairs. But this week he claimed to have set up a commission of inquiry into KMC to probe allegations of corruption and fraud. The Minster said he is relying on Section 151(1)(a) of the Local Government Act.
In the first place there is no Section 151(1)(a) in the Local Government Act. Rather it is Section 151(2)(a) that provides for the creation of a commission of inquiry by the Minister. But before establishing the commission, Section 151(1) provides that the Minister has to first receive a report highlighting improper conduct in the Council. Following this, the Minister may cause the Council to convene a meeting where he will point out the ‘irregularities found and give the Council any guidance necessary’.
Where the Council failed to address the irregularities, or failed to follow the guidance of the Minister or if the Minister considers the matter to be grave, then that is the time the Minster can institute a commission on inquiry as per Section 151(2)(a).
The question therefore is, has the Minister received any such report first of all. Next, has the Minister caused a meeting the Council to take place. Finally, has the Minister pointed out to the Council the irregularities or has he provided any guidance? These issues did not reflect in the letter of the Minister to KMC about setting up a commission.
Secondly, the Minister has not shown the public if KMC has failed to address the irregularities or has ignored the guidance of the Minister. The public has a right to know, for purposes of transparency and accountability in line with good governance if these actions were done or not. Otherwise, how can the Minister justify that his decision to set up a commission is not arbitrary and therefore meant for ulterior motives. The Minister has a duty to be transparent and accountable.
Thirdly, if the Minister is indeed interested in the good governance of the local councils then he must address the general poor performance, corruption and blatant unethical behaviours perpetrated in the councils. Not long ago, the Chairman of Brikama Area Council Sheriffo Sonko was heard in an audio having unethical conversation with a Lady Councillor where sex trade was discussed. His actions clearly violate the ethics of office for which there was every justification for the Minister to take action. But Mr. Drammeh never acted on that. Why?
That aside, Brikama Area Council has been engulfed in a number of scandals and poor performance that even led to a massive protest against the Council by young people of the region in 2019. This is the only Council since 2017 against which residents rose up to challenge them for corruption and poor performance.
The issues in the local councils are such that if Minster Musa Drammeh fails to address them but only wishes to focus on KMC, then it will be obvious that he has a bone to pick with the Mayor of that Council. Therefore, Minister Drammeh must be stopped in his tracks that he cannot toy with local councils who are directly elected representatives of the grassroots.
Yes, corruption and poor performance must be fought tooth and nail. But that fight must be done and seen to be done fairly, justly and without bias. There should be no sacred cows or scapegoats. Rather the fight for transparency and accountability has to be legal and legitimate.
In the meantime, I strongly advise KMC leadership to refuse this commission and take the matter to court because it is illegally set up. At the same time, I urge President Adama Barrow to also set up a commission of inquiry on the Ministry of Lands and Regional Governments and its Minister for the dubious land deals taking place under their purview.