The Kanifing Municipal Council has questioned the legitimacy and motive of the Minister of Local Government Musa Drammeh in constituting a commission of inquiry to investigate the council. On Tuesday, the minister unveiled a five – member commission to investigate “allegations and counter allegations of malpractices” at the council by both Mayor Talib Bensouda and CEO Sainabou Martin Sonko.
The minister said the commission is not targeting anyone, dispelling suggestions that the move is politically motivated against the mayor who belongs to the opposition UDP.
However, a statement released yesterday by the KMC questioned the motive of the minister and accused him of having a hidden agenda by, among other things, failing to allow the legal process.
The full statement from the KMC is produced below:
“Following the General Council meeting of 11th January 2022, and by the recommendations of members, the following resolutions were passed which I hereby bring to your attention. Whereas the Council has been presented with a letter issued to the Lord Mayor by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Lands, Regional Government and Religious Affairs dated the 4th January 2022. Whereas the said communication has notified the Council of the constitution by the Honourable Minister, of a Commission of Inquiry into allegations of fraud and malpractice at Kanifing Municipal Council from April 2018 to date and for connected matters. Whereas the letter states that the basis of the Commission is a report made by the Lord Mayor to the Ministry as well as a report of the CEO and special inspection reports. Considering that: (i) the only relevant report made by the Mayor is a report dated 22nd of July 2021 to the Local Government Service Commission about alleged fraud by the CEO, Sainabou Martin Sonko which fraud was perpetrated against the Staff Association and the fraudulent issuance of a Council Guarantee; (ii) the Local Government Service Commission has failed and/refused to convene over the said report and the Ministry has prevented the said Commission from convening even though the Local Government Service Commission is supposed to be an independent body that is not subject to the direction and control of anybody or institution; (iii) the Council had received information that the Minister had prevented the Gambia Police Force from taking further action on the said report even though the Gambia Police Force is supposed to be an independent body that is not subject to the direction and control of anybody or institution; (iv) the Council instituted a civil action on the 10th of August, 2021 against the Minister of Lands and the impugned staff to seek a declaration from the courts as well as damages for waste of Council resources; and the matter is pending; (v) the CEO remains on administrative leave and the Commission has not taken any steps to investigate the allegations against the CEO and the other impugned staff and to determine the appropriate actions to take in respect of the complaint by the Council against the CEO and other impugned staff;
one of the impugned staff, Mr. Bakary Jawo is reported to have been elevated to an Officer at the embassy of The Gambia in Russia while the investigation remains dormant; (vi) the Ministry, by letter dated 3rd August 2021, sent inspectors to the Council to investigate the report made by the Mayor and several other matters. The Council welcomed such inspection and prepared to cooperate fully with inspectors while it continues to conduct its affairs in an open and transparent manner. Unfortunately, to date the Council has not received any correspondence, communication or conclusions relating to the said inspection. (vii) the Council is not in receipt nor does it have any information relating to any report by the CEO. (vii) the Council has by letter dated 3rd August 2021 informed the Minister to respect the legal process and principles of good governance to allow the mandated authorities to carry out their constitutional mandates in respect of the alleged fraud as well as to refrain from unduly interfering with the report made by the Council against the CEO. The continued interference of the Minister in protecting the CEO and preventing due process has significantly impeded the administration of Council. Concerned at: (i) the failure of the Minister to support Council’s zero stance against corruption, and to allow the Gambia Police Force and Local Government Service Commission to look into the matters referred to them (ii) the failure of the Minister to notify the Council and provide them with the purported CEO’s report or the purported special inspection reports to afford the Council an opportunity to consider and if necessary address their content; (iii) the failure of the Minister to observe the rule of law, natural justice procedures and good governance in his dealing with the Council; which suggest that he has a special interest or hidden agenda. The Council expresses its unreserved disappointment with the actions of the Minister which are counterproductive to the development agenda of the Council as well as seek to undermine the Council’s firm stance against corruption. Council further considers the Commission of Enquiry of the Minister to have been instituted in bad faith and in abuse of his powers under the Act. The Council further considers the terms of reference of the purported Commission to be outside the scope allowed to the Minister given that it is unrelated to the report by Council. Council hereby: 1. Calls on the Minister to comply with the Local Government Act and cease all his interference with the processes commenced against Council staff since July 2021. 2. questions the legitimacy of the said Commission of Enquiry and the good faith of the Minister of Lands, Regional Government and Religious Affairs, Musa Drammeh. 3. Calls on the President of the Republic, His Excellency Adama Barrow, to direct the Minister to desist from his current cause of action which is an impediment to the efforts of the Council to serve the best interests of the people of KMC. Resolves that: 1. The Clerk shall instruct retained Counsel to commence legal action on behalf of the Council to look at the legitimacy of the purported Commission and ensure that the rights and interests of the people of KMC are fully protected and that the rule of law shall prevail. 2. The Lord Mayor shall communicate the concerns of the Council to His Excellency President Barrow in due course. Your Office is therefore urged to act accordingly.”