By Demba Bah
Banjul City Council (BCC) has been engulfed in a new confrontation. This time around it involves the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and the Finance Director. The previous standoff had involved the Mayor and the Deputy Mayor.
Mustapha Batchilly is the CEO and Momodou Camara is the Finance Director. On Wednesday, 10 January 2024, their matter ended up in the hands of the police after a brawl between the CEO and the Finance Director. The officials spent so many hours at the Banjul Police Station.
Foroyaa has been closely monitoring the development as well as exchangingcorrespondence as things unfold within the city council. Before going into the details of the letters/memos, Foroyaa has been reliably informed that there are efforts to forcefully break into the office of the Finance Director to collect some receipt books. However, the Finance Director is resolute that he is in charge of the finance unit and responsible for the direction and control. Foroyaa has been reliably informed that the Establishment Committee of the Council has given its approval for the forceful entry into the Office of the Finance Director. This medium understands that one of the members of the Committee walked out during the discussions because he was against their move.
The allegation against the CEO is that he wants to take the trade license receipt books from the Finance Director and give them to people who are not licence collectors to-do collection, which the Finance Director is refusing. The CEO and his close associates relied on the Establishment Committee to forcefully enter the office of the Finance Director and this was when the police were called and they came to the scene.
The Finance Director on 8 January 2024 wrote to the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) with the heading of the memo “Request for Approval to Start the Trade License Payment Chain Lifecycle (Invoicing)”. In this request, the Finance Director sought the approval of the CEO to start the Trade License Payment Chain Lifecycle (TLPCLC) for the 2024 financial year.
The Finance Director provided the CEO with some conditions to consider and address before they start the revenue collection from businesses and vendors in Banjul. The head of the finance unit reminded the CEO of the Council’s liabilities.
“Please remember, we have lots of liabilities to pay and we owe staff salaries and general council allowances for 60% of November 2023 and the whole of December 2023 staff salary and general council allowances respectively and the need to solve those internal problems,” the Finance Director wrote.
The Finance Director said it is within his terms of reference as the director of finance to do all revenue-related activities including custody, enhancement, creation of new revenue centres, reporting, rotation of staff and collector among others. He stated that these functions are provided under the Local Government Act and supported by the Financial and Accounting Manual for Local Government Authorities 2009, particularly sections 201, 202, 203, 204, 205, 206, 207, 208 and 209. He emphasised that sections 402, 405 and 406 are clear as to who is responsible for revenues of the council.
“I encourage you to read and approve for this Council to move on in the service of the people of Banjul. These sections are indeed very explicit as to who is responsible for the control and supervision of Council revenue,” the Finance Director wrote to the CEO.
The Finance Director indicated that since he joined the Council in November 2020, there has not been any formal registration and assessment of any kind of trade license.
“I don’t know when was the last registration and assessment done?” The Finance Director asked.
The Finance Director said there will be a revised trade licence gazette in 2019.
“I wish you enjoin me in forming a registration team that will help the Assessment Team in its recommendations for a holistic recovery and invoicing of all businesses and vendors in Banjul in 2024. This is my faith and I believe as the director of finance that I can solve all problems of cash flow woes for Council once and forever if you support me,” the Finance Director wrote.
The Finance Director stated that in 2021 he got massive support from the management and the general council and they were able to raise the revenue and operational efficiency. He added that they were able to collect 90 Million Dalasi, adding that “We can do better if I am left in peace and tranquillity to do my job as director of finance.”
“I seek that support moving forward. I believe that there are so many unrealized revenues due to lack of proper registration and assessment of businesses and vendors within the council,” the Finance Director wrote.
He asked the CEO to approve the creation of the proposed registration and assessment teams that comprise staff from the various departments and units of the Council.
“Your expertise and insights as the CEO will be key and cherished. I know the way and with your support, we can break new barriers in our revenue mobilization crusades,” the Finance Director wrote.
He said the invoicing process will follow the registration exercises and assessment exercises and then the revenue collectors will be dispatched to collect the revenues due to Council.
On the same day, 8 January 2024, the CEO wrote back to the Director of Finance reminding him of his previous instructions and asking him to hand over all related licenses, rates and cost recovery documentation, including invoices, demand notes and receipts among others. The CEO asked the Finance Director to allow all revenue heads to execute their roles and responsibilities with the support of the Finance Manager under the supervision of the Finance Director.
“But you failed to adhere to my instructions,” the CEO wrote back to the Finance Director.
The CEO added: “I would like to inform you that I am strictly going by the recommended changes agreed upon by the Management and as a result, you are expected to facilitate the process by latest mid-day tomorrow 9 January 2024.”
These two correspondences were the latest the Finance Director and the CEO exchanged. There were previous letters sent to the CEO by the Finance Director accusing him of meddling in his work.
On 22 December 2023, the Finance Director wrote to the CEO with the title “Interference in my work, roles and responsibilities”.
“I wish to once again draw your attention to your interference with my work, roles and responsibilities. There has been constant meddling in my work, roles, and responsibilities under your due, direct care and watch. I have no alternatives left except to document it for the records as I am powerless to stop these incursions into my job,” the Finance Director wrote.
He said the CEO approved the annual leave of two staff under the finance unit without his approval as the head of the unit. He detailed that it was wrong because the staff had pending assignments but the CEO’s act affected the work.
On 28 December 2023, the Finance Director wrote to the CEO with the heading “Inflated Invoices”.
“I wish to draw your attention to the invoices forwarded by the Director of Planning for the hiring of bulldozers for nine (9) days amounting to Five Hundred and Eighty-Five Thousand Dalasi (D585,000) for clearing of the dumpsite in two separate claims D130,000 and D455,000 respectively,” the Finance Director wrote.
He added: “The daily invoice of D65,000 is not realistic and inflated if you go by what the market survey indicative rates at the time coming to the present time.”
The Finance Director said the market survey showed that D-8 bulldozers cost D55,000 per day while D-6 bulldozers stand at D25,000 to D30,000 per day.
“I will urge you to advise the Director in question [Director of Planning] to desist from procurement processes and allow the Senior Procurement Officer and the Unit to function independently,” the Finance Director wrote.
The Finance Director called on the CEO to ensure the procurement rules are respected. He added that the two invoices did not pass through the Internal Audit Unit of the Council.
“I am not comfortable signing for payments that are inflated,” the Finance Director said.
On 3 January 2024, the Finance Director wrote to the CEO accusing him of interfering with his job. The Finance Director said the CEO nominated the Acting Finance Manager, Ebou Drammeh, to go to the United States of America on a Council’s errand but when he left, he absconded. For two years still, he has not been replaced.
The Finance Director wrote that he was removed as a signatory to some of the Council’s accounts by the CEO. He explained that this came about when he refused to sign a Nine Hundred Thousand Dalasi (D900,000) cheque raised by Mam Lai Jassey, the EU Project Coordinator and Alfusainey Gano the then Project Manager on visibility activities or promotion. He said the CEO disbanded the initial steering committee of the EU Project and then removed him as a signatory to the account. The Finance Director said he was replaced by Muhammed Cham, the Project’s Finance Officer. He added that he was also expelled from the New Steering Committee by the CEO.
“For you as the CEO, breaking the law and getting away with it is your strongest point,” the Finance Director wrote as he reminded the CEO of the law that the finance director shall be a signatory to all council accounts.
On 5 January 2024, the Finance Director wrote to the CEO again accusing him of interference in his work. He said the CEO discontinued a revenue line in which the city council got Six Hundred Thousand (D600,000) in just one year.
“One of the best performing new revenue lines being the Rental Operational Licenses was sabotaged and discontinued by you. In 2021, this new revenue line earned the council a handsome D600,000 and it was discontinued by you. You are therefore, mathematically speaking, responsible for the revenue of council of over 1.2 Million Dalasi and more in 2 years being 2022 and 2023 respectively,” the Finance Director wrote to the CEO.
The Finance Director said in 2021 they were able to raise the revenue by 38% and brought new revenue amounting to 25 Million Dalasi.
“These figures are there for all to see and you cannot be blind about them. We are a blessing to the Council and if the old system wants to do business as usual it is impossible,” the Finance Director said.
The Finance Director told the CEO that he, as the Director of Finance, was able to transform the dumpsite and it now earns at least One Million Dalasi for the council annually.
“What I will ask you and your league of distracters is what was happening to the dumpsite before I came and where was the money going to. The icing on the cake observation is the fact that you have not done a good job over there before my coming and if you could try to answer this simple question – How much were you making from the dumpsite per year before?” The Finance Director asked the CEO.
On 5 January 2024, I wrote again to the CEO regarding bank loans. The Finance Director said the CEO took an overdraft of over 8 Million Dalasi from BSIC without his approval as the Finance Director. He added that the CEO went ahead and spent the money without his input.
“This negative move by you and your associates cost Banjul City Council huge cash flow woes to this day. It created bottlenecks in payments and other liabilities,” the Finance Director said.
He accused the CEO of being an effective leader because the law requires that before taking such facilities from the bank the CEO should have sought the consent, approval or otherwise engage the director of finance. The Finance Director said the CEO has been interfering with the staff rotation policy he introduced for revenue collectors and trade license collectors.
Foroyaa is monitoring the councils and we will keep you informed about developments.