Monday, July 22, 2024

President Barrow institutes inquiry into conduct of local government councils

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In accordance with section 200 of the 1997 constitution of the Gambia and the Commissions of Inquiry Act, President Adama Barrow has constituted a commission of Inquiry [COI] into the conduct of all Local Government Councils and for connected matters.

The said COI will be chaired by Jainaba Bah Sambou with Samba Faal, Oreme E. Joiner, Baba M. Leigh and Sukai Secka Sagnia as members.

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It is authorized to inquire into all Local Government councils, particularly the circumstances of loans acquired by the councils between May 2018 and January 2023 to ascertain if applicable policies and procedures were followed in securing such loans; the persons or groups of persons directly involved in securing the loans and the funds used for the repayment of the loans.

The Commission of Inquiry is also authorized to look into bank withdrawals of diverse sums of money from local government council bank accounts to ascertain whether bank policies were followed in their creation, operation and whether withdrawals were applied to budgeted and lawful purposes and it will identify institutions, persons and groups of persons involved in payments and withdrawals of the said funds.

The COI will also look into the granting of the use of Local Government Council landed property and ascertain whether applicable procedures and laws were followed.

Salary Increments and the payment of allowances to staff and elected officials of the councils is another realm the commission is authorized to investigate. They will investigate the staffing requirements and numbers at the councils to ascertain if they are overstaffed and if the hiring of staff is in accordance with applicable policies, procedures and law. To this end, they will also ferret out if the councils have management tools such as a strategic plan, fixed assets register, financial manual, standing orders etc., in place.

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The general institutional arrangement and process of Local government councils will also be scrutinized to see if elected Mayor/Mayoress, Chairpersons and Councilors have a hand in the day-to-day operations and management of council and the implementation of policies. To wit, the commission will also investigate if the councils have an internal audit unit, procurement unit and Information Technology unit and if all funded projects and all major contracts, including procurement contracts and all public private partnerships entered into by councils between May 2018 and January 2023 benefited the council and the public.

The commission is also mandated to investigate all appointments on contract between May 2018 and January 2023, and the creation of advisory positions within the same time period to ascertain whether such appointments and remunerations paid to them, and whether the advisory positions were in line with applicable policies and procedures.

The recruitment of consultants, Lawyers or law firms by Councils, the creation of third-party Limited Liability Companies (LLC) and which local government councils are shareholders in the said companies, the actual income and itemized expenditure of the councils and the identification of any person or group of persons that may have committed an offence in relation to the matters under the commission’s purview between the period May 2018 and January 2023.

The President will appoint the secretary to the commission. The Attorney General and Minister of Justice will appoint the counsel to the commission. The Inspector General of Police is to assign police officers to provide security for the commissioners and commission sittings, serve summons and perform other functions as the commission may direct.

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After completing the inquiry, the Commission shall make recommendations on ways and means of improving the account supervision of local governments to thwart irregular withdrawal of funds, recover, restore any assets, monies and resources that may have been illegally taken, misappropriated, misapplied or lost.

Findings and Recommendations of the commission in relation to any person or matter will be presented to the government in the manner they deem appropriate, but provisions in the act allowed them to present findings in consecutive reports. A full statement of reasons leading to findings must be submitted along with the Commission’s full report.

The COI is to complete its inquiry within three months but may if in its opinion it is necessary to do so. The Commission will cease to exist on the date it submits its last or final report to the President.


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