By Bubacarr Komma January 17, 2022
In the ongoing corruption saga at Kanifing Municipal Council (KMC) where Mayor Talib Ahmed Bensuda uncovered illegal financial transactions amounting to twelve million dalasis (D12 Million) allegedly carried out by Sainabou Martin- Sonko, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) The press was brief about this development shortly after an emergency Council General Meeting following the resignation of Musa Bah, former Deputy Mayor of the municipality on 23rd July 2021.
Mayor Bensuda further revealed that CEO Sainabou Martins Sonko and Director of Finance, Dr. Alieu Keita conspired to defraud the council of the said amount. The council took further stringent action by suspending them pending further investigations.
However, this did not go down well with the Ministry of Local Government and Lands which has issued a statement expressing its position. An excerpt of the statement reads: “In the wake of the simmering tension that has engulfed the Kanifing Municipal Council (KMC) for weeks now, the Lord Mayor of KMC visited the Honourable Minister of Lands, Regional Government and Religious Affairs, Alhagie Musa Drammeh on Friday 23rd July 2021 and briefed him on allegations of fraud discovered at his Council. Following their conversation, the Minister advised him to formally write a report with recommendations to the Local Government Service Commission.
Before the receipt of that written report and to our utter surprise, on Monday, the 26th July 2021, The Lord Mayor held a press briefing and announced the resolution of the General Council meeting of the KMC sending various officials accused of fraud on indefinite leave and withdrawing their statutory allowances.
The Hon. Minister became aware of the press briefing and immediately called the attention of Mayor Bensouda to the fact that he had overstepped his powers and summoned him to a meeting the following day (27th July 2021).
In that meeting, Minister Drammeh reiterated his position on the normal procedure as per the Local Government Act, 2002 particularly, the appointment and disciplinary matters that are solely vested in the Local Government Service Commission. He urged the Council through the Lord Mayor to rescind its earlier decision that is unlawful and improper”.
Since then, the Lands Ministry and KMC relationship wasn´t t cozy at best as Mayor Bensouda refused to rescind their decision. Since then, it all seems to be a cooling off period, with each wondering what might be the next moves to make, even as there was less or no further correspondence between the minister and the mayor. Perhaps, that is due to December 4, 2021, election preparation.
Barely forty (40) days after the election, Musa Drammeh, the minister of Lands, presided over the swearing-in ceremony of three commissioners to probe allegations of corruption and malpractice at KMC. Minister Drammeh said his ministry has received reports and official complaints by the Lord Mayor Bensouda of KMC on allegations of corrupt practices at the municipality.
He added that his ministry also received counter allegations of malpractices and impropriety at KMC from the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Sainabou Martin Sonko. Therefore, considering the gravity of the allegations and counter allegations by the said senior KMC officials, his Ministry dispatched a panel of local government inspectors aided by competent auditors from the Internal Audit Department to KMC to ensure total fairness and transparency in the process.
An insider told The Progress Newspaper that, “We didn’t have a good time at the council since we received news of the government wanting to establish a commission of enquiry. We had a council meeting on Monday 10, January 2022 to discuss the matter. And Kemo Bojang raised a motion for Mayor Bensouda to seek an audience with president Barrow to solve this matter amicably.
And this motion was supported by all the council members”. However, Mr. Bojang went further write about it on his Facebook page and this is what he wrote: “As a progressive council and one that serves the national interest, I had suggested during sitting that we try diplomatic avenues with the central government on the current happenings in our municipality. We as councillors recommended that Mayor Bensouda meets the president in the interest of all parties in the ongoing commission of enquiry being set up by the minister. Being the leader he is, the mayor heeded our call and today had a one-on-one with the president.
We will not let anyone trample on our rights especially when we are in the right, notwithstanding, we will try all diplomatic avenues before we get to the end. As matured politicians and people who are driven by national interest, we will continue to do what we deem right and for the greater good.
Finally, we thank mayor Bensouda for even accepting the wishes of the councillors of our great municipality”. A source revealed that Mayor Bensouda has met with the president, and he told the president that, his council does not have any issue with him, and he wants them to work amicably for the interest of the Municipality. He assured the president of his´s council support for the development of the Municipality.
And Mayor Bensouda has informed his council member via their What´s App forum of having a positive meeting with the president. But he didn’t inform them as to whether the president will give directives for the commission of inquiry set to investigate his Municipality to proceed or not.