By Makutu Manneh
The former Finance Director of Basse Area Council (BsAC), Lamin Suso, while continuing his testimony before the Local Government Commission of Inquiry (LGCI), admitted that he and erstwhile CEO, Ousman Touray were involved in financial malpractices.
When asked by Deputy Lead Counsel Patrick Gomez on Monday, 16 October whether there were some withdrawals made from the ward development accounts without following due process, Suso responded that these monies were used for council’s operations but that he could not remember which of the council’s activities the monies were spent on.
At this point, the counsel cited some of the amounts withdrawn from the Ward Development accounts in the Auditors Report, including seventy-five thousand dalasi from Baja Kunda Ward Development Account, forty-five thousand dalasi from Gambisara Ward Development Account and one hundred thousand dalasi from Ward Service Development Account.
The witness informed the Commission that he was aware of the withdrawals that were made by CEO Ousman Touray and Councillors of these wards.
“We know this was wrong and we still did it, but the monies were used for council’s activities,” he said.
He said the seventy-five thousand dalasi taken from the Baja Kunda Ward Development account was refunded to the Ward Councillor in cash.
At this juncture, Counsel asked him how they knew the money was deposited into the Ward Development Account because the person given the money was the same person who participated in the withdrawal of the same money unlawfully.
“There is no evidence that the money has been paid,” Counsel Gomez put to the witness.
On the issue of the one hundred thousand dalasi withdrawal, Suso informed the Commission that the money was given to one Kaddijatou Jallow in cheque.
He said the money was given to Ms Jallow because the Ward wanted a milling machine from her.
Suso further told the commission that the forty-five thousand dalasi from Gambisara Ward Development Account was refunded to the ward Councillor.
On the overpayment made to Green Vision for the construction of the Baja Kunda bridge, the auditors noted that Basse Area Council made an overpayment of 2.6 million dalasi. The auditors noted that despite this over payment, Green Vision International was still requesting for outstanding payments.
Suso said this was a wrong transaction but reconciliation was done; adding that the information was provided to the auditors and he is surprised that the auditors said they were not given any information.
He faulted the calculation made by the auditors which brought the figure to 2.6 million dalasi, adding this was wrong because the overpayment was supposed to be ninety-two thousand dalasi.
However, he agreed that there was overpayment done to Green Vision. He said it was his decision together with CEO Ousman Touray to overpay Green Vision and that one Yaya Ceesay was in that meeting.
He added that their reason for the overpayment was because they wanted to get money for salary.
Suso further said this was the only way out but he could not answer why that was the only way out, admitting that after making the transfer to Green Vision, he called and informed them about the overpayment and told them to return the money to the Council.
On why the money was paid into his account, he said the council’s accounts were indebted and the money would have sunk if it were deposited into the Council’s accounts.
When Counsel Gomez asked him if all the council’s accounts were indebted, he replied in the negative.
He was asked again why monies were not transferred into the council’s accounts; Lamin Suso said they were not comfortable doing the transfer in the council’s account.
“You comfortably transfer the money into your account when the council has five (5) accounts,” Counsel Gomez quizzed.
“Myself and the CEO decided to do that,” Suso replied.