What appeared initially to be the handling of an internal corruption scandal has turned to become a national political arm-wrestling between President Adama Barrow’s administration and the Mayor of Kombo Saint Mary’s main council, Talib Bensouda, who is also a rising star in Barrow’s main opposition party, the United Democratic Party (UDP).
In using force to bypass the suspension of an alleged corrupt CEO to force in KMC council’s suspended CEO Sainabou Martin Sonko, President Adama Barrow’s administration visibly intends to control the narrative around the corruption scandal that swept Mrs. Sonko.
But, the public perception is that President Adama Barrow and his administration intend not to let down a veiled NPP insider of the KMC, Sainabou Martin Sonko, in a bid to settle scores with Talib Bensouda of UDP. As a result, some angry members of the KMC Staff Association were outside on Monday, chanting in Mandinka, “Bring back our money. We need it.”
Meanwhile, the suspended CEO, Mrs. Sonko, told the Chronicle she was at the premises of the Council on Monday, “Not to work as usual, but to help an investigation team to get the information they need from her.”
“I was there to interact with the investigators. Why wouldn’t they allow me in? “
Mrs. Sonko added that if there is an investigation on allegations leveled against her, she should be present on the KMC premises. “If I am not allowed to take part in it, what would be the outcome?” she questioned.
As everyone struggles to extricate the complex truth from this melee, the government’s move on Monday not only deepens the polarized political rivalry in KMC as The Gambia heads into a decisive presidential election in December, but it also heightens the proxy war between President Adama Barrow and his perceived archrival Ousainou Darboe.
Babucarr Thomas, the Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the KM Staff Welfare Association, said the suspended CEO Sainabou Martin Sonko and the accused (Kaba Bass & Bakary Jawo) should stay at home until the investigation is completed.
“Let them sit at home and wait for the investigation to be complete before they could report to work. “We don’t trust any of them in the council until the investigation is done.”
PRO Thomas alleges that the suspended CEO Mrs. Sonko fraudulently opened a Bank account at Arab Gambia Islamic Bank (AGIB) without the express approval of the Staff Association. As a result, the bank has been deducting D1, 500 from each of the 37 staff members of the Association.
According to him, this has been going for the past 10 months. “The staff doesn’t know where the land they have been deducted for is situated. They don’t know the demarcation of the land and what portion of the land is allocated to each.”
The genesis of the ongoing KMC fracas
On July Jul 26, 2021, KMC Mayor Talib Bensouda revealed to journalists that the CEO of the Council, Mrs. Sainabou Martin Sonko has been suspended after she acquired a bank loan in the name of the Staff Association of KMC without their consent.
“She used these funds to acquire a property which we believe in having been grossly overvalued and forged council documents and approval to obtain a guarantee purportedly from KMC to secure a loan.”
Mayor Bensouda further added that through the Council’s intervention, they could freeze the accounts in question and recovered more than six million dalasis.
“These actions of Mrs. Sonko’s are severe and we believe were of serious criminal nature, ranging from fraud, tax evasion, and theft.”
Reacting to the Kanifing Municipal Council’s decision, the Ministry of Local Government and Lands has issued a statement that said, “Minister Musa Drammeh called the attention of Mayor Talib Bensouda to the fact that he had overstepped his powers and urged the Council through the Lord Mayor to rescind its earlier decision that was unlawful and improper.”
“To the Minister’s amazement, while the Inspectors were allowed entry into the KMC premises, the suspended officials were denied access even before the arrival of the inspectors.”
The government further hinted of the Monday move stating that “the Ministry intends to execute its full responsibility.”