By Omar Bah
The ministry of local government has notified the Kanifing Municipal Council that a commission of inquiry has been established to probe into ‘allegations of fraud and malpractice’ at the council.
In August last year, KMC was gripped by reputational crisis after the mayor, Talib Bensouda alleged the chief executive officer Mrs Sainabou Martin Sonko illegally conducted financial transaction totaling about D12 million.
Mrs Martin Sonko was since barred from entering the KMC compound even after the local government ministry asked her to return to work following a decision to suspend her by a council resolution.
Over the weekend, a letter The Standard confirmed to have come from the ministry addressed to Mayor Bensouda was leaked online. It reads: “I wish to officially inform your good office that the minister acting in accordance with section 151 (1)(a) of the local government Act, 2002 as amended has constituted a Commission of Inquiry into allegations of fraud and malpractice at the KMC from April 2018 to date and for other connected matters as reported to his office by the Lord Mayor, the CEO and the special inspection reports.”
The commission, according to the ministry, will seek to “to ascertain the alleged soliciting of bribe by the council’s former deputy mayor Musa Bah and CEO Sainabou Martin Sonko from the officials of ECOTECH and ALMOT, the circumstances of the deductions from the salaries of 106 members of the association for the purpose of repaying the loan facility, payment of salary advances to councilors, allowances increment of councilors and circumstances of renewal of contract of staff”.
It says the inquiry will also focus on appointment of staff, circumstances surrounding the unilateral stopping or halting of deduction of loan repayments of staff salaries, contracts awarded by the council, acquisition and financing of the “Mbalit Trucks” (waste collection trucks) and identify whether any person or group of persons have committed any offence related to the subject matter of the inquiry.
“The Commission shall complete its inquiry within three months from the date of establishment of the inquiry. In line with the above, your office and the general council are requested to support the process and the commission as mandated,” the letter adds.
The Ministry however has not set a date for the commission, whose lead counsels will be appointed by the Justice Minister, to commence work.
The Standard contacted Mayor Talib Bensouda over the supposed letter. He confirmed that he has information suggesting that such letter has been dropped at the council but he has not seen or read it as he had been on vacation and therefore could not offer any comment.
The leaked letter has generated a lot of controversy online with most people including fans of the mayor calling the move a witch-hunt against Mr Bensouda. Others questioned why the Ministry of Lands or the government did not start investigating all the ‘suspicious land administration in the country or other allegations of corruption all over the government machinery’.