His Excellency, President Adama Barrow, acting under section 200 of the 1997 constitution of the Gambia and Commissions of Inquiry Act (CAP,30:01) has constituted a commission of Inquiry into the conduct of all Local Government Councils, and for connected matters”.
The commission which is expected to complete its inquiry within three months is constituted of the following members:
Jainaba Bah Sambou as Chairperson
Oreme E. Joiner
Baba M. Leigh
Sukai Secka Sagnia
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 to secure the said loans. Also, the persons and groups of persons involved in securing the loans and the funds used for the repayment of the loans will be subjected to inquiry as well.
The Commission will also look into bank withdrawals from local government accounts to ascertain whether applicable policies were followed in their creation, operation and whether withdrawals were applied to budgeted and lawful purposes. In this vein, it will identify institutions, persons and groups of persons involved in payments and withdrawals of the said funds.
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.
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.
Upon completion of its inquiry, the commission shall recommend 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, 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 President will appoint the secretary to the commission, while the Attorney General and Minister of Justice will appoint the counsel to the commission. The Inspector General of Police is task with assigning police officers to provide security for the commissioners and commission sittings, to serve summons and perform other functions on the direction of the commission.
The commission is expected to complete its inquiry within a period of three months, but may continue if it deems it necessary to do so. It will cease to exist on the date it submits its last or final report to the president.
Source: Gov’t press release.