By Omar Bah
The Mayor of KM, Talib Bensouda has called on the new local government minister to immediately facilitate the refund of D13.1 million, taxes the council paid to the Gambia Revenue Authority for the ‘mbalit’ project trucks.
“We were charged D13.1 million for the trucks because the government said at the time the trucks were owned by a businessman. Now that the trucks are fully owned by the council, I want to call on the new minister of local government to facilitate the refund of the money. I am expecting the money as early as next Monday,” Mayor Bensouda said yesterday as the Council took full ownership of the project.
The ‘mbalit’ project was launched in May 2018 and since then, the council has made tremendous strive in waste management. The $2 million project was prefinanced by the Q-group through the AGIB Islamic Bank. Some 24 trucks, 10 skip bins and 1 sceptic emptier truck were bought which created 170 jobs for residents of KM. Yesterday’s event marked the final handing over of the ‘mbalit’ project to the council after it successfully paid back the $2 million loan. The European Union also presented three brand new project vehicles to the council.
“When I took over the council there were three second hand tractors and three second hand trucks collecting the waste of over five hundred thousand inhabitants in over thirty-five thousand compounds and twelve thousand businesses in the municipality. The council was also close to bankruptcy with loans in various banks with no financial resources and subvention from government was not forthcoming and revenue collection was weak and linkages were very high. This was a very difficult period and a break was needed. The council then decided to launch a tender and ask an investor to prefinance the purchase of 24 trucks, 10 skip bins and 1 septic emptier which represented an investment of D130 million and Muhammed Jah of Q-Group was there to support,” the mayor said. He said the trucks have generated over D9 million over the past three years, saying all residents of KM are equal in the trucks.
The European Union representative at the event said the EU is pleased to support the development of the council. “The EU is always proud to stand with the Gambia in good and bad times. We have been contributing in the country’s transition especially in the areas of agriculture, environment, good governance and rule of law. We have been in the side of the government since the advent of the new regime and we will continue to do so,” he said.
The CEO of Q-Group Muhammed Jah acknowledged the great role played by President Adama Barrow in ensuring the successful launching of the project.
“I am acknowledging the role played by the president because there was a time even the mayor was concern that there were some oppositions to the project. I remember he called one night to register his concern about it but when I spoke to the president, he told me how committed he was to the project and told me because the community needed it,” he said. He said he would not have given $2 million loan to a council which is found to be struggling financially without the trust he has in Mayor Bensouda’s leadership. “At Q-Group, we don’t invest in project, we invest in people we believe that we saw a capable team led by the mayor and we decided to prefinance the project because we believe in his leadership,” Jah said.
He extolled Mayor Bensouda for his good leadership qualities which convinced him to prefinance the $2 million ‘mbalit’ project without hesitation. He returned gratitude to the council for paying back in full all the $2 million loan without default.