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Friday, October 15, 2021

Local gov’t ministry speaks on KMC saga

The Ministry of Local Government and Lands has issued a statement explaining its position on the current allegations of corruption at the Kanifing Municipal Council.

The Ministry also announced it has sent inspectors to the KMC to probe the matter.  The statement from the ministry reads in full:

“In the wake of the simmering tension that has engulfed the Kanifing Municipal Council (KMC) for weeks now, the Lord Mayor of KMC visited the Honourable Minister of Lands, Regional Government and Religious Affairs, Alhagie Musa Drammeh on Friday 23rd July 2021 and briefed him on allegations of fraud discovered at his Council. Following their conversation, the Hon. Minister advised him to formally write a report with recommendations to the Local Government Service Commission.

Before the receipt of that written report and to our utter surprise, on Monday, the 26th July, 2021, The Lord Mayor held a press briefing and announced the resolution of the General Council meeting of the KMC sending various officials accused of fraud on indefinite leave and withdrawing their statutory allowances. The Hon. Minister became aware of the press briefing and immediately called the attention of Mayor Bensouda to the fact that he has overstepped his powers and summoned him to a meeting the following day (27th July, 2021).

In that meeting, Minister Drammeh reiterated his position on the normal procedure as par the Local Government Act, 2002 particularly, the appointment and disciplinary matters that are solely vested in the Local Government Service Commission. He urged the Council through the Lord Mayor to rescind its earlier decision that is unlawful and improper.

Curiously, moments after leaving the Minister’s office, the Mayor signed a hand-delivered letter to the Hon. Minister dated 22nd July 2021 conveying the unlawful decision of the General Council reached on the 26th July, 2021 without adhering to the guidance of the Minister. What was shocking to the Ministry was the inconsistency in the correspondence. Even though Council passed its resolution on the 26th July, 2021, the letter conveying the decision was dated 22nd July, 2021, four days prior to Council’s decision. 

During a phone conversation on Friday, 30th July, 2021 with the KMC Mayor, the Hon. Minister maintained his position that the action of the Council was unlawful and urged it to revisit its decision and submit recommendations through the Office of the Permanent Secretary to the Local Government Service Commission. This is the competent authority on the appointment and disciplinary affairs of Public Servants of Councils nationwide.

On the 2nd of August, 2021 the Hon. Minister responded to Mayor Bensouda’s letter stating Council’s unlawful decision and his resolve to dispatch an Inspection Team based on Section 150 of the Local Government Act, 2002. Minister Drammeh also admonished the KMC to allow officials unlawfully sent on indefinite leave to participate in the recommended inspections.

To the Minister’s amazement, while the Inspectors were allowed entry into the KMC premises, the suspended officials were denied access even before the arrival of the inspectors.

Therefore, the Ministry intends to execute its full responsibility, strictly adhering to the Local Government Act, 2002, failing which, the full force of the law shall be applied.

Curiously however, the Hon. Minister received a reply to his 2nd August, 2021 letter with the Resolution passed by the General Council of KMC on the 3rd of August 2021 regarding their decision that the suspended officials remain on Indefinite Leave as per their earlier Resolution. KMC however, acquiesced on the payment of salaries and entitlements pending the outcome of investigations.

Therefore, The Ministry of Lands and Regional Government insists that its inspectors be allowed unhindered access to continue their work as of Thursday 5th August, 2021 and are expected to engage all parties by Monday including those sent on Indefinite Leave without due process.

Under the circumstances, the Ministry expects full compliance with the Inspection Team failing which appropriate measures will be taken.”

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