By Omar Bah
The Mayor of Kanifing Municipality, Talib Bensouda has ruled out accepting appointment from the Barrow administration unless NPP and UDP reconcile.
“The issue of joining the government is a political matter and I don’t share the same political beliefs with the government. It is an NPP government and I am a member of the UDP. That can only happen if UDP and NPP reconcile and become one,” he told Star FM in an interview to be aired today.
He added: “But to be honest, my focus is KMC and I am satisfied with this job. I am very happy serving my people and I believe I will have more impact on people’s lives here. This is why I have a lot of projects in place to transform KMC”.
On whether he will seek re-election, Mayor Bensouda said: “We have not reached that time yet. My preoccupation right now is about serving the people of KM and at the end of my term, I will declare my decision on whether I will seek re-election or not. That is my stand.”
Turning to his council’s achievements, the mayor said: “When we came in 2017 the KMC budget was about D100 million but that has significantly gone up in 2022 to D300 million and we have budgeted D438 million for 2023. This is just to tell you that the KMC budget has grown significantly because of our successful fight against corruption and the increment of staff incentives.”
Mayor Bensouda disclosed that he was able to build a very strong and professional team of staff who saw the progress of the council first before anything else.
“They have seen my vision and embraced it. So, that has been the secret behind our success,” he said.
He said the council is working on a municipal road project to build thirty eight kilometers of roads with drainage.
“We have realised that my first five years focused too much on the garbage project but it’s time now for us to focus on feeder roads and the 2023 budget will mainly focus on that,” he added.
He said the council is still committed to building parks and completing the construction of its multimillion library, garbage transfer station, slum development project and a radio station.
“The whole project including the tricycle project in Ebo Town will cost the council D100 million. Another component is to buy sixteen more service vehicles – six for the garbage project and the ten will be service pick-ups,” he said. He said the council is also working on a project for an affordable housing company just like the transport company. “We have seen how much our people are suffering in paying rent,” he said. He added the 2023 budget will subsidize the council buses. “We are targeting about 50 buses to run in KM,” he added.
Bensouda condemned the process of appointing interim committees to overview councils during elections. “This is illegal and don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t mean that I am scared of anything or being checked. We just want to be treated like the president and the National Assembly members are treated. We want to be respected,” he said.
He denied awarding contracts to his family-owned businesses. “We have been very transparent and even insiders at the National Audit Office are telling us we are rated as one of the most transparent councils in terms of compliance with procurement rules,” he said.
“My mother was serving as lawyer for the Council even during Mayor Yankuba Colley’s time but when I came, I called a meeting and requested that her contract should be terminated because she is my mother and the council endorsed that and the contract was cancelled. So, if I am able to do that, why would I in turn give my contracts to families?” he said.
He said the people of KM should trust him and challenged anyone who has anything against him to come forward with proof.
He said the council gives D200, 000 subvention to ward councillors every year for small initiatives.
“KMC is the only council doing that in this country,” he added.
Tune for more of the mayor’s interview on Star FM this morning 96.6 FM