By Yusef Taylor and Binta S Jawo
After being suspended from work for over eighteen months, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and the Assistant Waste Manager reported to the Kanifing Municipal Council (KMC) after a letter from the Ministry of Lands, Regional Government and Religious Affairs demanded that the suspended staff should “report to work on Tuesday 21st February 2023”.
Our reporter was stationed at KMC where they witnessed the arrival of the KMC CEO and others who boldly engaged the media on the situation. The suspended CEO confirmed receiving her salary and allowances every month after her suspension.
Significant attention has been placed on the KMC CEO, Mrs Sainabou Martins Sonko, however, five other staff have also been suspended with only the Assistant Waste Manager also the Treasurer for the Staff Welfare Association, Mr Baboucarr Sanyang accompanying her to report to work on Tuesday 21st February 2023.
The remaining suspended Officers who did not report to work are; Finance Director Dr Alieu Keita, Deputy Director of Compliance Mr Bakary Jawo, the Deputy Collection Supervisor also the Social Secretary of the Staff Welfare Association Mr Mam Kabba Bass and the President of the Staff Welfare Association Mr Modou A Njie.
It can be recalled that the KMC CEO and others were suspended pending an investigation initiated by the Mayor of KMC Talib Ahmed Bensouda back in July 2021. It’s alleged that the persons mentioned above were involved in a fraudulent D12 million loan for a plot of land for the Staff Welfare Association.
It’s alleged that the CEO fraudulently agreed to a D12 million loan with a bank without the approval of the Mayor.
After the Police got involved the Ministry of Lands commenced efforts to initiate a Commission of Inquiry into allegations of fraud and malpractice at the KMC from April 2018 to January 2022. However, the Commission never took off but the Ministry of Lands proceeded with its Inspection of KMC and an Inspection Report was prepared.
To date, the Ministry of Lands has not publicised any of its findings or implemented any recommendations from the Inspection Report. Now a Commission of Inquiry announced by the Ministry of Lands on all Council Loans from 2018 to 2023 has overtaken events but facing stiff resistance from Local Governments who are gearing up for re-election by 20th May 2023.
KMC CEO Demands Furnished Office and Keys
Speaking to the media the CEO revealed that this is the third time she has attempted to resume work after her suspension. Explaining how her latest attempt to resume work unfolded, Mrs Sonko confirmed that she was allocated a conference hall, much to her displeasure. The CEO insisted that she would only resume work after her office is fully furnished and office keys handed over to her.
It’s understood that a Council meeting will take place today, Wednesday 22nd February 2023 when a decision will be made on her return to Office.
Speaking to KMC Councillors immediately after the CEO’s departure, the Councillor of Bakoteh Ward who also Chairs the Development Committee, Hon Lamin K Jammeh explained that when the CEO reported to work she requested to meet the Mayor, stated that she is back to work and intends to maintain the peace and stability.
According to Councillor Jammeh, the Council has issued a resolution suspending the CEO and others subject to an investigation. He refuted the CEO’s claims that the Mbalit Trucks used for garbage collection are overpriced. According to the Bakoteh Ward Councillor, the Council does not want to work with Mrs Sonko.
Another Councillor for Old Bakau Cape Point who Chairs the Environment and Sanitation Committee, Hon Lamin Dibba revealed that he was part of the team that travelled to China to purchase the Mbalit Trucks. According to Hon Dibba, the bidding for the Mbalit Trucks was done with Muhammed Jah who can be consulted on the issue. Muhammed Jah is one of the most successful businessmen in the Gambia, the CEO of QuantumNet Group and the Korean Counsel in The Gambia.
Councillor Dibba raised concerns over what he termed as the unprofessional interference of the former Minister of Lands, Hon Musa Drammeh. Hon Dibba alleged that KMC CEO Mrs Sonko wrote a letter to the Mayor apologizing for her involvement in the fraudulent D12 Million loan before she reversed her apology. Hon Dibba concluded by reiterating his colleagues’ position that the Council does not want to work with any of the suspended staff.
Ebo Town Councillor who chairs KMC’s Establishment and Appointment Committee, Hon Habibou Ceesay argued that the Local Government Service Commission cannot impose on the Council. He believes that the Council maintains the right of approval. Hon Ceesay stated that all staff are under that commission and not under the government. He called the government’s efforts a political witch-hunt and referred to the court ruling for the first Commission of Inquiry. In his view, the CEO should not accept being used by the government for their interest. “All her claims are untrue,” said Councillor Ceesay who believes that the Council has the mandate to suspend staff or to send them on leave.