By Adam Jobe
On Monday 26th July 2021 Kanifing Municipal Council (KMC) Mayor Talib Ahmed Bensouda held a press briefing alleging that his Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Mrs Sainabou Martin Sonko and Director of Finance Dr Alieu Keita, hatched a fraudulent scam involving D12 million GMD.
Mayor Bensouda claims that “sometime in June of this year my office intercepted Financial transactions initiated and entered into by Mrs Sonko” involving D12 million.
Deputy Mayor Musa Bah has tabled his resignation, which the Mayor announced he accepted on Monday however, CEO Mrs Sonko is refusing to budge. In the wake of Deputy Mayor Bah’s resignation, Mayor Bensouda announced that “councillor’s exercised the authority to elect a new Deputy Mayor and I am pleased to announce that Mrs Binta Janneh Jallow [who was] elected Councillor of Bakau New Town Fajara will be taking on the role of Deputy Mayor effective immediately”.
“Binta will be the first-ever female deputy mayor in the Kanifing Municipality” noted Mayor Bensouda.
It is not clear if Deputy Mayor Musa Bah’s resignation is a result of his involvement in the D12 million scam.
Speaking on the investigation on the D12 million believed to have been lodged in AGIB Bank, Mayor Bensouda says “it was discovered that Mrs Sonko entered illegal transactions without lawful authority to the tune of D12,000,000. These illegal transactions were completed with the co-signature of the Director of Finance Dr Alieu Keita,” he said.
Mayor Bensouda alleged that CEO “Mrs Sonko acquired a Bank Loan in the name of the Staff Welfare Association, on behalf of 37 staff without their knowledge or consent. She used these funds to acquire a property which we believe to have been grossly overvalued and she forged council documentation and approvals to obtain a guarantee purported from KMC to secure the loan”.
In an attempt to recover the funds’ Mayor Bensouda said “through our swift intervention we were able to freeze the accounts in question and recover D7.6 million. Our swift action and a zero tolerance to graft and corruption protected the public confers of the council from what would otherwise have been a serious financial loss”.
Speaking on the findings of his investigation Mayor Bensouda described the corruption uncovered as “criminal in nature, ranging from fraud, tax evasion and theft” he stressed.
Mayor Bensouda explained that CEO “Mrs Sonko was confronted in a Directors meeting of 12th July 2021 wherein she confessed to her actions and apologized to the management team of the KMC”. However, in a turn of events, CEO Sonko recanted her position.
Given the findings of the investigation, Mayor Bensouda has called on “the local Government Service Commission to summarily dismiss Mrs Sonko and the Director of Finance from Service”. The issue will also be reported to the Gambia Police Force for an investigation. Both the CEO and the Director of Finance have been placed on indefinite leave pending the results of the investigation and the decision of the Local Government Service Commission.
“The actions of Mrs Sonko are quite disappointing. Countless employees of the council have expressed great disappointment in these acts” he lamented.
This incident demonstrates the urgent need for the decentralization of staff disciplinary matters to local authorities he said. Mayor Bensouda emphasized that the council with the mandate of the people must have the ability to hold staff accountable for their performance and actions.
Mayor Bensouda tried to win public trust when he said “I wish to reassure the public especially the people of KMC and the staff of KMC that under my administration we shall continue to have a zero-tolerance for corruption. If you intend to use public office to enrich yourself then KMC is not for you.”
“We will pursue this process as we have done since June” he concluded.