By Makutu Manneh
Director of Internal Auditor at the Ministry of Finance, Cherno Amadou Sowe, has informed members of the Local Government Commission of Inquiry that the Basse Area Council is depending on bank overdrafts.
Mr. Sowe said the Basse Area Council is barely operating due to the overdrafts and loans it takes “from one bank to the other, with most of the loans contracted meant to pay salaries and allowances and the day to day expenses of Council”.
The Internal Audit Director made this disclosure to members of the Local Government Commission of Inquiry on Wednesday, 7 June 2023 during his appearance before them, to shed light on the 2020 to 2022 internal audit report for Basse Area Council.
Mr. Sowe further added that the audit team found out that most of the loans were taken without proper procedure, as there was no approval document from the Ministry of Lands regarding these loans.
Sowe said twenty-six million, eight hundred and ninety-four thousand, one hundred and eighty-one dalasi, two bututs (D26,894,181. 02) was taken by the council from different banks as loans, adding that out of the aforesaid amount, the Council is said to have been aware of only fifteen million Dalasi (D15, 000,000.00).
The Director further explained that neither the ministry nor council consented to the loan amount of eleven million, eight hundred and ninety-four thousand, one hundred and eighty-one dalasi, two bututs (D11,894,181. 02). He testified that the loan was taken by the Council’s CEO, Ousman Touray and his Finance Director, Lamin Suso.
“The audit team found out that the finance director or CEO go to the bank together or individually and verbally talk to the bank and ask them for the loan, without making any formal application,” Mr. Sowe said.
He submitted that the audit team was not given any evidence pertaining to the loans taken, adding that “only the CEO and his Finance Director will verbally ask for the loans and they will be granted”.
Mr. Sowe further said that the audit team could not account for or establish how the D26 million loan was spent.
“This is a serious violation of the Local Government Act, because ‘two individuals should not be able to have such powers especially when they are the ones running the finance department,” he said.
He added: “They are not following what is in the Finance and Procedure Manual, and this is not the way to do business as an institution.”
The loans that the Basse Area Council took from various banks include D1.6 million from Trust Bank Limited on January 13,2022, another D800,000.00 from Trust Bank Ltd on 22 September 2022; D1 million and D450,230.25 from Agib Bank on 13th March 2020 and 27 July 2020 respectively. It also includes D615,500.00, D1,000,000.00, D250, 000.00, and D250,000.00 from Agib Bank dated 27 August 2020; 22 January 2021, 23 January 2022, 8 September 2022, and 25 January 2021 respectively, as well as loans of D850,000.00 and D10 million obtained from Supersonic Micro Finance on 7th September 2021 and 14th October 2021 respectively.
Basse Area Council received D5 million loan from Vista Bank, followed by another loan amount of D4,663,346.77 in January 2022. The council has also received a loan of D400,000.00 from Reliance Financial Services on October 11, 2022.