MKAC Former CEO Says Private Receipt Books Were Printed Due to Financial Pressure

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By Makutu Manneh 

Pa Sait Ceesay, the former Chief Executive Officer of Mansakonko Area Council (MKAC), has informed the Local Government Commission of Inquiry that they printed private receipt books for the Council’s conference centre, due to the financial pressure they were facing. 

He said the decision was his personal initiative because they wanted to operate the conference centre privately and differently from the Council. 

“The pressure was to make more money for the Council. We printed ten private GTR books which did not get Council’s approval,’’ he said. 

When informed of an account opened with ‘Supersonics’ Micro-Finance Company in January 2019, when the conference centre actually began operations in December 2019, Ceesay dismissed the claim of working under pressure, and confirmed the dates as true. However, he said that those were measures put in place at the time.

Chairperson Jainaba Bah asked the witness why MKAC spent taxpayers’ money on the conference centre project only to print privately sourced receipt books. 

In response to Commission Chairperson Bah’s question, the witness replied that this was an error on their side as they had the financial manual for Local Councils which forbid such practice. Ceesay said he did not know the person or company that printed the private receipt books because the transaction was done by Bai Gibbi Sallah, the former Finance Director. He testified that he knew that what they did was not right since the right receipt books should come from GPPC with the approval of the Ministry responsible for Local Government. 

When asked again about the actual reason for obtaining privately sourced receipt books, he said it was their first time running such facilities, adding that the idea was to maintain a fixed deposit account for a year at ‘Supersonicz’ Micro-Finance and then engage the financial institutions for the extension of the project since the largest portion of the land area was not developed. He explained that the reasoning was that the area developed, was less than the area left undeveloped. Witness Ceesay went on to inform Commissioners about the tariffs of the conference centre, and said VIP rooms were rented for D1,000 per night, while the other rooms were D750. He said Momodou Saidybah was appointed manager of the facility housing the conference centre and the rooms, but admitted that the manager received money from customers without having a cash book to record what was received. He said the centre manager used to receive a double salary; one from the Council as a staff and the other from the centre for his voluntary service. He added that all the workers at the centre were doing voluntary service and were not permanent employees of the centre. He attempted to shift the blame saying a competent finance director would have provided the center manager with a cash book for recording purposes, but was informed that he, as the CEO, was in charge of everything happening at the centre which he admitted.

The witness testified that he used to visit the centre daily, to see what they were doing. Asked about a D178,175 that was not recorded in the cash book, the witness said it was the responsibility of the Finance Director to post them. 

Ceesay said the former Finance Director Bai Gibbi Sallah told him he was not going to use the books or the manual system, but was going to introduce a new system, which never came into existence. He later admitted that he was also liable because the Finance Director was under him and as chief accounting officer of the council, he should have performed oversight functions over the Finance Director. The witness further admitted that he used to sign payment vouchers after they were done and completed, and said the financial rules are against such practices, admitting that what he did was wrong. The witness also accepted that they used to pay people, who refused to sign after receiving money from them. He admitted that they used to pay ghost workers as council staff, but initially,he challenged the accuracy of the audit findings regarding the existence of ghost workers at the Mansakonko  Area Council.

“What they [the auditors] are saying is true,” the witness answered, and admitted that he used to give verbal instructions for payments to be made by Council. He further admitted that he used to give orders to the Finance Director to instruct the revenue collectors to make certain payments, when the financial rules dictate that all monies should be deposited at the bank.