By Alagie Manneh & Amadou Jadama
The embattled VDC of Kafuta has rubbished talks questioning its legitimacy in office, including the purported theft of community funds and the registration of a business in the name of its members.
At a press briefing in the home of the alkalo of Kafuta last Saturday, the VDC debunked the allegations levelled against it by the Concerned Citizens of Kafuta.
The Concerned Citizens, who are threatening legal action against the VDC, alleged among other things that the VDC was handpicked by the alkalo, and that it opened a mining company purportedly in the name of the community of Kafuta. They also said the VDC since 2017 has not called for any congress or AGM.
Responding at the meeting in Kafuta, the chairman of the VDC, Malang Jatta said the reason the VDC did not convene an AGM was because the government placed a ban on public gatherings due to Covid-19.
“They are trying to pollute the minds of Kafutarians [to support their desire to fill the office of VDC],” he said.
He said the amount in one of their Jarisu Social Development Enterprise, JSDE accounts was 214,313 dalasis for JSDE. “That is [for] gravel mining company. For the VDC account, we have 34, 655 dalasis.”
According to the Concerned Citizens, the VDC registered a mining company to enrich themselves at the expense of the locals, but Jatta said the JSDE is community owned. “It is a community owned enterprise established by a group of individuals for the social business of Kafuta.”
He said the “founders”, and not the community, “are responsible for the policy-making decision of the said social business.
Jatta said the Concerned Citizens, “in their quest to discredit the founder of JSDE”, have been organising “subversive meetings”, day and night, to turn the people of Kafuta against their leadership. “In fact, reliable sources have it that each is paid monthly the amount signed against our names. This is unfortunate and exposes their limited capacity of the way businesses are formed and operated”, Mr. Jatta said.
The chairman said the executive was selected by the alkalo and the Council of Elders, who he claimed followed a long-standing tradition of the village in selecting the VDC, contravening the Local Government Act governing VDCs.
He also denied the VDC sold off properties of the community including tractors and ambulances.
A report by the Brikama Area Council (BAC) Ward Development Committee (WDC) or Conflict Resolution Committee, which investigated the matter said the constitution of [the current] Kafuta VDC has no provision for a tenure of office or term-limited.
“The documents also showed that the VDC executive members were selected by the alkalo and the Council of Elders. This is contrary to section 93(1) of the Local Government Act 2002,” the report stated.
The report said a VDC demonstrates its accountability or answerability to the larger community by holding Annual General Congress during which the community is updated on various activities, including development initiatives and challenges as well as tell the people how their funds are being judiciously managed.
“Despite the records showing that the [current] VDC under Malang Jatta came in November 2017, the recordings in the cash book revealed that the old VDC was in charge of the financial transactions from November 2017 to June 25, 2018.”
On allegations of registering a private company, the report said there was no official document to suggest or establish that Jarisu Social Development Enterprise (JSDE) belongs to the community of Kafuta.
“However, it is registered with the name of the current VDC chairman – Mr. Malang Jatta, and the company name of JSDE.”
The report added that “upon further inquiry, it is now discovered that the members of the VDC have registered themselves, shareholders of the company – each has paid a sum of money as their share contribution. This information is derived from the registration document of this said company”.
In light of these revelations, the investigating Committee ordered the restructuring of the Kafuta VDC, with immediate effect.”
It said the “formation and composition” of the VDC was is not in line with the dictates of the LG Act.
Lawyer Yankuba Darboe, who two weeks ago threatened to seek a mandamus order to remove the VDC, reacted in light of the sub-committee’s report: “We feel vindicated because they [the VDC] have admitted to all of the issues raised here.”