By Makutu Manneh
Yuba Jawara, the former vice chairman of the Basse Area Council and councillor for Sabi Ward from 2018 to 2023 testified before the Local Government Commission of Inquiry regarding the withdrawal of One Hundred Thousand Dalasi (D100, 000) from his ward development account without following due process.
The System Audit Report by the Internal Audit Directorate on the Basse Area Council found that the Council withdrew monies from Baja Kunda, Sabi and Gambisara Wards without following due process. The audit report held the former Chief Executive Officer (OusmanTouray), the former Finance Director (Lamin Suso) and the respective councillors of the three wards responsible for the withdrawal of the said sums of money without informing their ward development committees. For Sabi Ward, the amount was One Hundred Thousand Dalasi.
“Do you agree with the findings of the Audit Report?” Counsel Patrick Gomez asked.
“I agree that there was a withdrawal of D100, 000 but I don’t agree with the allegation by the auditors that we did not follow due process,” Yuba Jawara said.
“Why did you say that?” Counsel Gomez asked.
“There is no written procedure to be followed,” the witness answered.
On how he made withdrawals from the ward development account, he said he used to summon meetings of members of the ward development committee, where they would discuss the issue before raising a request for the withdrawal.
“Why is there a need to inform the members of the ward committee?” Counsel Patrick Gomez asked.
The witness said that is the right thing to do because it promotes transparency and accountability in the way the ward funds are disbursed. Yuba Jawara blamed the general council for failing to pass a resolution to dictate how the monies received by the councillors should be used. He said some councillors used to unilaterally make withdrawals without the notice of the ward development committee members.
“There are no rules set out by the general council. It is a failure on the part of the general council,” Yuba Jawara said.
The witness said the money in the account was meant for development. He opined that there should be rules to dictate how it should be spent. Yuba Jawara also criticised the management of the Basse Area Council in the way they were handling the funds of the Council.
“There is no control system in the way the council’s funds were spent. There is no budget control. The problems were mainly lack of control in the way council’s funds were spent,” the witness said.
Jawara added: “The Council is not interested in the rule of procedure. The Council is not interested in the rule of law. Some of the councillors and the council staff do not know about the rules and regulations in the legislation. Some never see the legislation.”
The witness said certain councillors do not attend the meetings for more than fifteen (15) minutes.
“You will see councillors come and attend meetings for 15 Minutes and then leave. They used to only come for the sitting allowance,” the witness said.
The witness testified that there were no standing orders and the meetings of the council were not orderly.
On the D100, 000 made from the Sabi Ward, the witness said he received a call from the former CEO (OusmanTouray) regarding the complaint that the Council had financial problems.
“The CEO told me they wanted to buy materials and he wanted money from the ward development account. The CEO assured me that the money will be refunded as soon as the Council gets funds,” the witness said.
The witness said the former director of finance (LaminSuso) did not approach him concerning the money.
“If you see the procurement, the rules were flouted and it was the Council that used to buy items to implement the projects,” the witness said.
Counsel Patrick Gomez referred the witness to section 504 of the Financial Manual regarding control of expenditure of funds. The witness explained that he was shown the vouchers for what the Council wanted to use the funds for.
Yuba Jawara later agreed with the audit finding that due process was not followed after he was taken through the Financial Manual. The witness said the money was refunded in cash, but asked the Council to deposit it in the account.
“The money was deposited in the account by Ndabah Krubally (Cashier of Basse Area Council),” the witness said.
He provided the Commission with a copy of the statement of account for the Sabi Ward Development Committee Account, which was tendered. The statement, which showed the cash deposit by Ndabah Krubally in November 2021, was admitted in the records of the Commission and marked as an exhibit.The witness said he was the Chairperson of the Development Committee of the Basse Area Council and was also co-opted in the Finance and Audit Committee. He was also a member of the two task forces that were set up to investigate financial mismanagement at the Council.
“I was co-opted in the Finance Committee in late 2022. Since I joined until I left the Council in May 2023, we never met. I was not the Chairperson or the Vice Chairperson – I cannot summon meetings. I was simply added to a dormant committee when everything got out of hand,” Yuba said.