Mayor Talib Bensouda of the KMC has said consistency, effective usage of time, providing visionary and inspiring leadership among other things made him endearing to the people of the municipality and therefore encourage him to seek a second mandate.
Speaking in a newly launched Standard Newspaper series called Mayors’ platform, Bensouda who will launch his second term manifesto tomorrow, said he believe that his opponent Bakary Badjie of the NPP is just being used as a tool by President Barrow and his government who are ganging up against him in a bid to uproot him. “I know they are so much focused on the KMC mainly because of the impressive work we recorded here which has given us a good standing in the minds of many right thinking people. In all their obsession with Talib Bensouda they have failed to sell their product and only spend time trying to discredit my person. The KMC under my leadership offers inspiring and visionary leadership which has transformed services for the people of the municipality in unprecedented ways. We have managed to build an administration that is people centered and all embracing, cutting across political divides and addressing the people’s problems by effectively using their own money. I have reached across the aisle to both President Barrow, cabinet ministers and other officials all in a bid to ensure a harmonious and effective way of serving our people. But Barrow and his people believed everything is politics and that is the difference between our perspectives,” he said.
Asked about criticisms by his opponent that his administration has not done anything, Bensouda said every honest person knows that such a statement is “false”.
“You know I find it hard to reply to empty talk but I would want an honest debate on what we have achieved with anyone ready for one,” he said.
The mayor said his administration’s first achievement is the successful management of waste in the KM through the Mballit project. ”In just three years, we implemented a project that provided D100M waste collection vehicles, fenced the Bakoteh dumpsite and with the support of German partners, fitted it with, facilities transformed the once eye- sore and an environmental disaster to a very improved state. Just go to any Bakoteh resident and ask about the transformation there since we came to office,” he said.
Mayor Bensouda said he found it baffling and a misinformation crusade for anyone to question the fees charged for waste collection. ”I wonder why anyone one with a good judgement and honesty would question the fee on waste collection. Where in this world would you find services provided free. Even if you get a grant someone is paying for it. In any case the Barrow government is making people to pay for even bridges built by the Gambian tax payer’s money. If the president is interested in making waste collection in the KMC free or cheaper then his government would have granted us the duty waiver on the collection vehicles. I think it is unfair to make the fee an issue. If they say the manner we collect it, (prepaid) is an issue, then I can argue. But again at a place where there is no proper address system, for billing many service porviders are going prepaied from post paid. We are using prepaid system just as Nawec is selling cash power prepaid or Gamtel selling credits prepaid. So I take Barrow’s comments as poor opinion and political gimmicks,” Mayor Bensouda said.
The mayor said his administration built four markets and rehabilitated 12 existing ones. “We built the Tallingding Jibiti-Kunda market from scratch, the Kotu Market, Latrikunda Market (albeit through Gamwork or government). Gamworks built 72 shops but we built 100 more shops from ground zero. We currently rebuilding the Ya Fatou Njie market in Tallingding for D7M, we built the Lat-kumba Lowe road from scratch for D4M, and expanded Serekunda market with a shade and 36 shops at D3M,” he said.
On criticisms that his council’s financial administration was criticised at the National Assembly, Bensouda said what the parliamentary committee FPAC observed are mainly incompetent financial management, book keeping errors and check and balance issues here and there. “Now, the financial director and staff are appointed by central government and not the councils. As heads of council we are only policy makers and all the management of the finance is done by central government appointees. So, if there is book keeping error, who is to blame? If they have allowed councils to appoint their own staff, then it can take responsibility for these lapses,” he said.
The mayor said The Gambia government should be the last to accuse anyone of corruption because its own audit department has unraveled billions of book keeping errors deep inside government. “Why is that not their priority,” the mayor asked. Bensouda said his next programme for KMC would be revealed tomorrow in his manifesto at the Paradise Suits Hotel.