By Yusef Taylor and Alieu Ceesay
A Kanifing Municipal Council (KMC) staff has suspected its former Information Technology (IT) specialist in a new fake trade licenses scandal, however, the KMC Councillor has failed to reveal the name of the suspected staff. Earlier this morning on 20th April 2022, KMC issued a press release raising the alarm about the issuance of fake trade licenses. This prompted our journalist to visit their offices to ask some questions regarding trade licenses.
KMC has a licenses unit responsible for issuing licenses. According to the official KMC website, there are three types of licenses that generate revenue these are Trade License, Road Side Canteens and Liquor License Forms. The procedure for obtaining licenses is also listed on their website and reiterated in today’s KMC press release.
Speaking to KMC’s Chairman of the Revenue Committee, Councillor Karamo Ceesay, he told Gainako that alarm bells started ringing after a lady lodged a complaint to the Municipality earlier in April 2022. Councillor Ceesay confirmed that the amount of money involved [for this single transaction] is said to be around three thousand Dalasis (D3,000) and that the suspect who was the IT manager of the council in 2021 had now resigned.
Councillor Ceesay informed our medium that the matter has been reported to the Police for further investigation. Speaking on past revenue collected from License Tax and the Council’s target for 2022, Councillor Ceesay says that “the Council has collected 70 million Dalasis from 2020 to 2021 and this year the target is to collect 90 million Dalasi from License tax”.
Part of the council’s responsibility is to issue licenses for people in its region who want to involve in any legal business after being registered at the Attorney Generals Chambers. Councillor Ceesay also doubles as the Vice-Chair of the Accounts Committee, according to his explanation “the individual presented this [fake] trade license when they were applying for a visa and was rejected because the license was a fake document and later on, they suspected that it’s a fraud”.
This is how “the information reached the mayor (Talib Ahmed Bensouda) on 13th April 2022 and he called my attention on the matter and I then summoned for a meeting where individuals were invited,” revealed Councillor Ceesay.
In a bid to address the situation Councillor Ceesay said he “called the lady who complained about the fake license and those whose signatures were on the license and they all agreed that yes, it is their signature but they said they didn’t know how their signatures appear on that document”.
That was when he “contacted the IT specialist who also said he was not involved but the lady mentioned the name of the former IT manager to us,” said Councillor Ceesay.
KMC Statement on Fake Trade License
Earlier today 20th April 2022 KMC published a statement highlighting that they have “learned with dismay about a fraudulent act of issuance of a fake KMC trade license”.
“The Council regrets to inform the public about the inauthenticity of the said trade license and point to the fact that such an act is highly illegal and can attract grave penalties for those involved: the fake license doesn’t have the signature of the Mayor and the person did not pay to the Cashier, and says they did not receive a receipt,” noted the statement.
“There are only two ways to pay for your Trade License Invoice. Either at KMC Offices with the Cashier, or you use one of our partner banks (Agib Bank, GTBank and Megabank). These are the only ways to pay for a license. In either case, you will be given a receipt. You take the receipt to the Licensing Office in KMC (nowhere else), and you will be issued a trade license after all approvals have been done. An authentic trade license must bear the signatures of the Lord Mayor and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) with their official stamps,” read the statement.
“The Mayor may be deputized by the Deputy Mayor, or for the CEO, the Deputy CEO or Director of Admin can sign. The fake license did not have both of these signatures. If you are worried whether you have a fake license please report to Council for clarification”.
“KMC urges the public to follow the due course of obtaining a legal trade license from the municipality. We warn any person engaging in an illegal act of forgery, or tampering with these documents, that they will face the law”.
“We are writing to all Embassies and High Commissions in The Gambia to inform them about how to detect a fraudulent Trade License”, stated the press release.
What Are the Penalties?
For now, it appears that the Police will need to conduct an investigation to progress the case. Perhaps it would be important to quantify how many such fake licenses currently exist and how they can be removed from the system. Our reporter will try to follow this case to ascertain if any culprit has been found wanting for such corrupt practices and what the appropriate penalties are according to the Gambia’s legal instruments.
According to provision 18 in Part II of the Schedule of the Local Government Act 2002 which highlights the “Functions and Services for which the Local governments are responsible,” Local Governments and Councils shall have the authority to “prohibit, restrict, regulate or license the sale or hawking of wares or the erection of stalls on any street, or the use of any part of the street or public place for the purpose of carrying on any trade, business or profession”.