Commission Gives Lamin Suso 1 Week to Account for D23 Million Withdrawn from Council’s Account

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By Makutu Manneh 

A former Finance Manager of Brikama Area Council (BAC) was on Wednesday, 17 April 2024 given an ultimatum of one week by Commissioners of the Local Government Commission of Inquiry to provide evidence pertaining to how a sum of D23,381,286.53 withdrawn from the  aforesaid Council’s bank account, was spent.

Lamin Suso, who is now working at Basse Area Council, has asked the Commission to give him one week to enable him to provide explanation to the withdrawals.

“These were transactions done by me,” Suso said.

He was also asked about a 4.6 Million Dalasi withdrawal.

“Why will you withdraw money from the Council’s accounts?” Gomez asked.

He said he was instructed by the Director of Finance. He added that this happened when the accounts clerks were busy. 

He was referred to his role as the finance manager as contained in the Financial Manual. Before this, Suso was arguing that his conduct was in line with law because he can withdraw money from the council’s accounts. Suso after reading his role as Finance manager insisted that “any other duties assigned to him from time to time”. He said the instruction was verbal and he only collected the cheques and did the withdrawal.

Suso could not cite any law that gives him the power to make withdrawals from the accounts. Despite the arguments, he said he was not a Cashier and the responsibility to withdraw is for the Cashier and other accounts clerk.

“We will want you to provide the necessary information to tell us where the money was spent,” Lead Counsel Gomez told Lamin Suso.

“That will be very difficult for me,” Lamin Suso said.

Suso requested for a week to get the evidence of the 23,381,286.53 withdrawal. It was granted. Before he left, Chairperson Jainaba Bah took time to remind him that total income of BAC received in 2018 was D70,017,038 and in 2019 it was D78,508,376.98.

He said he was Finance Manager 1 and there was another Finance Manager 2. He added that they used to share responsibilities. He testified that he was appointed by the Local Government Service Commission. When asked what their responsibilities were, the witness said their responsibilities were to safeguard the revenue of the Council.

His statement dated 14 March 2024 was tendered and admitted in evidence. The witness said the Principal Cashier was under him.

In the first part of his testimony, Suso appeared jointly with Lamin Kantong Kanteh the Principal Cashier of Brikama Area Council.

The witness said in 2018 the revenue collectors used to do collection and come to the office with cash. He qualified his statement by saying not all the collectors used to bring cash. He explained that “Flatters Collectors” [flat rate collectors] were the only people allowed to bring cash to the Council.

When asked why that was the case, the witness said it was a management decision and it was the arrangement on the ground. 

Suso said Lamin K. Kanteh used to keep money in a safe in the office. Suso was given the 2019 audit report showing a list of undeposited funds. The auditors found that the monies were entered in the cash book but there was no evidence of deposits.

Lamin Suso testified that he used to do reconciliation with the Principal Cashier (Lamin K. Kanteh) using bank statements. He explained that he relied on deposit slips, credit advice and the bank in doing reconciliations. 

“In 2018, a revenue collector was required to come either with a bank deposit slip or cash,” Counsel Gomez told the witness.

“Yes,” the witness answered.

“Mr Kanteh testified that he would hand over the physical cash to you after reconciliation,” Counsel Gomez told Lamin Suso.

“Not cash,” Lamin Suso replied.

“He said cash,” Gomez told Lamin Suso.

“Ok,” Suso answered.

The auditors found out that over 60 million Dalasi was posted in the cash book and there was no evidence of deposit in the bank. Lamin K. Kanteh alone issued receipts amounting to 44 Million Dalasi from that amount.

“All I understand is that if the deposit slip is not presented it means it was a bank transfer,” Lamin Suso said.

He was referred to the management response of the Council to the audit query, but Suso said he did not do it. 

The auditors said evidence for the deposit 16 Million was provided while 44 Million is still not provided.

Lamin Kanteh testified that he used to give the money to Lamin Suso after reconciliation. He added that Lamin Suso would then issue him receipts.

“Mr Suso said you don’t give him cash,” Counsel Gomez told Lamin Kanteh.

“Do you still stand by your statement that you gave Lamin Suso money?” Gomez asked.

“Yes, I stand by that,” Kanteh said.

Kanteh reiterated that he used to give money to Lamin Suso. Lamin Suso in reply said usually there was no cash balance after reconciliation because their expenditures were more than the cash they received from collectors.

Lamin Suso said he is responsible for the 44 Million Dalasi because the Principal Cashier was under him.

Lamin Suso was questioned about the receipts as contained in the audit report and he said he doubts the authenticity of the receipts. He asked for time to look at them. 

“I think these receipts numbers need to be verified,” Suso said.

Lamin Kanteh had earlier testified that those were privately sourced GTRs receipts, which means unofficial receipts were used in council transactions.

Vice Chairperson Samba Faal told Kanteh that he cannot be exonerated because as the receiving Cashier, after taking the money from revenue collectors, he should have ensured that the money is deposited in the bank. Commissioner Faal said the Finance Manual is clear as to what should be done with cash that is received. 

“If you decide to give the cash to someone else, that is your own thing. You cannot be exonerated. You should have ensured it was deposited,” Vice Chairperson Faal said.

“Your system cannot be above the law. The law is the law. Your internal arrangement cannot make it right. It has to be in line with the law,” Commissioner Alagie Sillah told the witness.

The witness kept on repeating that it was the arrangement in place at the Brikama Area Council, despite knowing that it was contrary to the law. The law provides that all funds should be banked.

Lamin Suso, as the former Finance Manager, said Lamin Kanteh should have deposited the monies he received in the bank in line with the Financial Manual.

Lamin Suso was asked to explain where he obtained the mandate to supervise the Principal Cashier. The Financial Manual did not give him that power. 

“As the Director of Finance or Finance Manager, you do not have the power to tell anyone not to take the money to the bank,” Counsel Gomez said.

“Yes, that is correct,” Lamin Suso said.

Lamin Suso said what happened was wrong, adding that it was not supposed to happen.

“It is a learning point,” Suso said.

“Mr Kanteh, didn’t you know at the time you were not supposed to give money to Lamin Suso?” Gomez asked Lamin Kanteh.

“I don’t know,” Kanteh said.

“Are you saying you were not qualified to be appointed as a Cashier?” Gomez asked.

“Honestly, I don’t know at the time,” Kanteh said.

Counsel Gomez referred Suso to the Financial Manual on how to do reconciliation. After reading the Manual, Lamin Suso boastfully said he used to follow the provisions of the Financial Manual, but when the Lead Counsel began asking about his duties as a FinanceManager, Lamin Suso then began admitting that he was not following it.

He was instructed to bring the 2018 and 2019 Financial Statement of the Brikama Area Council. The request came at a time when he was bragging that he used to follow the Financial Manual.

At this stage Lamin Kantong Kanteh was discharged. Lamin Suso was the only witness left to continue with his testimony.

Lamin Suso was asked about an auction sale of properties of the Brikama Area Council. Suso was the Cashier of the Committee that conducted the auction.

Sulayman Barry, the Principal Auditor of the Brikama Area Council, did a systems audit on auction transactions of the Council. The audit unit of the council indicated in their report that Lamin Suso kept D103,000 with himself while 1.6 Million Dalasi is still in limbo.

“Is not true,” Lamin Suso said.

“What is not true?” Counsel Gomez asked.

Suso said the audit finding was wrong arguing that he has evidence to disprove the audit finding.

The witness said the auction team members were himself, Ebrima Sawaneh, Sulayman Barry, Paul L.S Mendy and Fatoumata Jallow (Councillor). Suso provided the Commission with a summary report of an auction dated 25 January 2020. It was tendered and admitted in evidence. This report was prepared by Suso alone. Lamin Suso said 26 assets were disposed of.

“Your oral evidence was contrary to what you wrote in your statement,

“Yes, that is correct. The statement was wrong at the time. I did not see the report at the time,” Suso said.

The Council engaged in a cash transaction – meaning the buyers paid cash to the Council and Suso was in receipt of the money.

When asked the mode of payment, Lamin Suso said on the 25th of January 2020

D15,000, D50,000 and D40,000 was received, on the 27th January 2020. D100,000 was paid and on the 28th January 2020 another D100,000 was paid. Suso said on the same 28th January, he deposited D760,000 and on the 31st January 2020, he deposited D40,000. Suso said the total was D1,000,000.

Suso was questioned about the total amount that was supposed to be received from the auction and he said D1,229,600 was supposed to be collected.

“Now you have D1,000,000 that you can account for. Where is the rest,” Counsel Gomez asked.

The witness said he was not aware of the audit findings against him. He added that at the time of the audit he had already left the Council. He said he left the Brikama Area Council in February 2021.

Suso said the amount realised from the auction was One Million, Two Hundred and Twenty-Nine Thousand, Six Hundred Dalasi (D1,229,600). He was asked whether there a report was prepared, he said he believed there was a report prepared by the committee. He testified that the report he tendered to the Commission was the report he prepared.

“The Committee report is the relevant one,” Lamin Suso said.

“Where is the Committee report?” Chairperson Jainaba Bah asked.

“It is not seen,” Suso said.

Suso testified that the bank deposit slips were missing. 

“Honestly, the deposit slips are not there,” the witness said.

Suso said there is a difference of Two Hundred and Twenty-Nine Dalasi (D229,000). He claimed that One Million Dalasi (D1,000,000) was deposited, but he was not able to provide evidence to support it.

“Where is the balance of D229,000?” Counsel Gomez said.

“I was not able to trace it from the deposits,” Suso said.

Counsel Gomez reminded Lamin Suso that he was a Finance Manager and not a Cashier. He also reminded him of his duties and that he was doing the function of cashier

Lead Counsel Gomez referred the witness to the receipts in his own report. Lamin Suso said there were 25 receipts and the auction started on 25th of January 2020.

On the 25th January alone he said there were 17 receipts – D15,000, D50,000, D15,000, D50,000, D40,000, D40,000, D50,000, D45,000, D16,000, D22,000, D10,000, D27,000, D10,000, D1000, D21,000, D22,400 and D13,900. Suso said after doing the calculations, the total was D432,300.

“Why did you deposit D100,000 on 27 January when you collected D432,300 on the first day? Why will you collect D432,300 in one day (25th January) and on the 27th January, which was a banking day, you deposited D100,000? Counsel Gomez asked. 

“You’re very right. It does not make sense. I don’t understand why I deposited D100,000,” Lamin Suso said.

“Why would you collect D432,300 and deposit D100,000?” Gomez asked again.

“The D100,000 was from the auction. I can assure you that,” Lamin Suso said.

“We don’t operate on assurance. We deal with evidence. Where is the evidence? Gomez asked.

“Counsel, I don’t have it,” Suso said.

The Commission noted that Lamin Suso on the 22nd January 2020 withdrew D200,000 and D300, 000, and on the 23rd January, he withdrew D300,000.

“You withdrew the money and deposit it back into the account,” Counsel Gomez said.

“No, I withdrew the money but I did not deposit it back into the account,” Suso said.

“Why did you withdraw the D800,000 on the 22nd and 23rd January?” Counsel Gomez asked.

“It must be for a certain purpose,” Suso answered.

The witness said it could be that he used it for office transactions.

“Tell us the purpose,” Lead Counsel Gomez said.

“I cannot tell you the purpose at this moment,” Lamin Suso replied.

Counsel Gomez told Suso that there is no evidence to back the claim that the money garnered from the auction was deposited.

“All the other accounts did not have deposits on the 27th January. Tell us what happened to the money,” Chairperson Jainaba Bah said.

“Exactly, I agree with you,” Lamin Suso said.

Chairperson Bah stated again that the auction money was not deposited. Lamin Suso did not respond and decided to give a different answer.

Lamin Suso said he does not know the account maintained by the Brikama Area Council where the funds received from mining activities in the West Coast Region are deposited.

“I don’t know about that account,” Lamin Suso said.

“As the Finance Manager?” Chairperson Bah said.

“I am not aware of it,” Lamin Suso said.

“We will get to that,” the head of the Commission said.

Commissioner Oreme E. Joiner asked the witness where he got D760,000 since the Commission is aware of the D800,000 withdrawal he made on 22nd and 23rd January. The witness said D760,000 was from the auction sales, but he could not provide an explanation on how the D800,000 withdrawal was expended.

Suso however admitted that the amount of D106,000 has still not been traced.

“It still cannot be traced,” Suso said.

“Since 2020, you cannot trace the D106,000,” Commissioner Joiner asked.

Lamin Suso claimed that the money was lodged in the Council’s tribunal, but they still cannot trace it. 

“Where is the money?” Chairperson Bah asked.

“Information is yet not available,” Lamin Suso said.

Counsel Gomez continued with his questioning. He told the witness to continue with the remainder of the receipts from the auction

Lamin Suso said on the 26th of January he received D200,000 and on the 27th January he received D5225,000, D10,000, D5,000, D6,000, D42,000, D8550 and D89,600. Suso said the total was D702,450.

“Mr Suso, you can see even the receipts you have do not tally with what you have stated,” Counsel Gomez told the witness.

The witness was silent and later claimed that there were other receipts.

“Show us,” Counsel Gomez told the witness.

“I don’t have them,” Lamin Suso said.

“On 27 January 2020 you withdrew D300,000 from Eco Bank and the same day you credited the account of GT Bank. How can you explain that?” Gomez said.

“These are different transactions,” Lamin Suso said.

“This is why you need to come up with evidence to show the difference,” Gomez told the witness.

“At this point in time I cannot give you that,” Lamin Suso said.

“You agree with me that you cannot explain anything to justify your claim,” Counsel Gomez said.

“I am not having data with me,” Lamin Suso said.

“Your report did not indicate where the money was paid to [deposited],” Gomez told Suso.

“Yes, that is true,” Lamin Suso replied.

“Where did you deposit the collections you made on the 26th and 27th January?” Gomez asked.

The witness claimed that he deposited it in the account 

“You are supposed to bring us evidence to show us where the monies were deposited,” Gomez said.

“Yes, I know,” Lamin Suso said.

“It is clear that you have not bank all the money,” Gomez said

“I have banked all the money,” Suso said.

The witness following the question and answer between him and Lead Counsel Gomez, admitted that his report did not indicate what happened to the money.

“Will you agree that so far you do not have evidence to show you have deposited the monies?” Gomez asked

“Yes,” Lamin Suso stated.

Suso benefited from a staff loan amounting to D500,000. He was asked to bring the documents. Suso said he still did not pay the D158,000 balance. The loan was for 2018 to 2021.