“In Basse Area Council Procurement is Done by everyone, especially the Finance Unit,” Says the Procurement Officer

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By Makutu Manneh  

Mr Muhammed Jawneh, the Procurement Officer for Basse Area Council on Tuesday, 26 September informed the ongoing Local Government Commission of Inquiry (LGCI) that at the Basse Area Council (BsAC) procurement is done by every Tom, Dick, and Harry (everyone), especially the Finance Unit of the Council.

“There is a high interference with the work of the Procurement Unit by the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and the Director of Finance. Not all procurement passes through my office as far as procurement is concerned in the Basse Area Council,” he said.

The witness said he has complained about this issue to the CEO of the Council on several occasions and he has provided evidence through a letter to the Commission in which he had written to the CEO concerning this matter.

He equally informed the Commission that procurement of the Council is not conducted by the Procurement Unit; adding that this is why there are many lapses.

According to him, he was not signing documents for procurement, noting that it was an oversight on his part. However, Deputy Lead Counsel, Patrick Gomez put it to him that was not an oversight as he was already trained on procurement.

In response, Jawneh said he reports directly to the CEO of the Council and explained to the Commission that the CEO used to make minutes on documents and ask him to do procurement. He said he is the secretary to the contracts committee.

When asked by Counsel Gomez if he has a record of all the transactions in 2020, he replied that for any transactions he does, he gives it to the Finance Unit; adding “I don’t have records. At the time my knowledge in procurement was limited,” he clarified.

Jawneh further told the Commission that the seven (7) boreholes dug or drilled in 2020 through single sourcing were way beyond the threshold for single sourcing and this was a directive from his boss the CEO, OusmanTouray.

According to him, the former Chairman of the Council Foday Danjo, asked the CEO to give the boreholes contract to that particular contractor because he is from the region.

“The CEO, OusmanTouray, Yaya T.B. Ceesay, the Chairman of the Area Council told me that the Council does not have money for the borehole projects, but the contractor was ready to do it.”

He said the guy was a friend to the Chairman of the Basse Area Council, Foday Danjo.

“There was nothing done. There was no evaluation done and there was no bidding,” he disclosed.

He added that for the borehole projects, there was no Contracts Committee meeting and no procurement rule was followed.

On the maintenance of vehicles, the witness said he was not aware of those transactions and explained that the CEO was the one doing it while further revealing that the CEO said he has someone in the Kombos who does vehicle maintenance (Mechanic).

He said the Motorcycles procured by the Council in 2021 were directives from the CEO and the Director of Finance respectively.

“They said we don’t have money and they identified someone to supply us until we have money to pay them,” the witness said.

 He also informed the Commission that in June 2021, the Council purchased a smart television and that it was the Chairman, CEO, and Finance Director who said the Council should buy a smart television and Air Conditioner for the Council’s Chambers.

He added that he was not aware of the procurement of the generator for the Finance Director’s residence.

He testified that he knew about this generator among other things during the public hearings of the LGCI while acknowledging that some of the things they were doing weren’t correct.

He said he does not take part in most of these transactions and even those he participated in, he did not follow the procurement rules.

Jawneh was employed in 2014 as a Data Entry Clerk till 2016, in 2017, he was a Revenue Collector focused on licensing. However, in October 2019, he was appointed as Procurement Officer. Jawneh said he is the only one working in the Procurement Unit. He added that last year someone was appointed as a Procurement Assistant.

“The structure of the Procurement Unit at the Basse Area Council is not wide. Since I was redeployed to that Unit, there was no one there to guide me,” the witness said.

The witness said in 2020, there was no procurement plan for 2020 and he was not making decisions regarding procurement in this year because he doesn’t know much.

The witness said the procurement rules were not mainly followed in 2020 based on two reasons – one was because of his lack of knowledge and experience and the second thing was he was directed by his boss, CEO OusmanTouray, to do procurements.

Jawneh obtained a Diploma in Banking and Finance at MDI and a Diploma in ABE. He also holds a Certificate Level 1 in procurement from the Gambia Public Procurement Institute (GPPI).