The final audit report of the Basse Area Council (BsAC) conducted for the period 1st January 2020 to 30th September 2022 reported that the Finance Director, Lamin Suso, deposited over D6 million of the Council’s funds to his personal account.
According to the report, section 9 (7) of Financial Regulation Duties of other financial officers states, “A Sub- Treasury accounts officer or finance attaché shall – (o) ensure that public money in their charge is kept separate from private money; (p) and ensure that personal cheques are not cashed out of public funds.
“During the auditing process, we noted that the Finance Director has a personal business called ALLAH TENTU AGENCY located in Brikama, West Coast,” the report revealed.
“A review of these business transactions revealed that the Finance Director used his business account in the Council’s operation, notably, depositing Council revenue amounting to D6, 481, 061.00 into his business account by revenue collectors,”
“An interview with the Finance Director revealed that he didn’t disclose his private business to the local government service commission at the time of his appointment,” auditors said.
As to the implications reported, the auditors said there is a high risk of fraud and mismanagement of taxpayers’ money as revenue collectors deposit money directly into the Finance Director’s business account.
“The deposit of money into a private account shows weak financial control weaknesses in the Council. There is a high risk of conflict of interest by not revealing his personal business to the Council or the service commission,” the report said.
The audit report recommended that the permanent secretary Ministry of Lands investigate the financial dealings of the Finance Director to establish these facts. Furthermore, the Chairman and CEO should ensure that there is an immediate stop to money deposited into private bank accounts and that all Council funds be deposited into the Council’s designated bank accounts.
The management of BsAC positively responded to the recommendations. It said the Chairman and CEO would write to the ministry to investigate the financial dealings to establish the facts beyond a reasonable doubt.
“Furthermore, all money deposited by council staff to this particular account will be withdrawn and deposited back to the council’s account with immediate effects,” BsAC noted in their action point.
A similar review of BsAC bank statements revealed that since the Finance Director assumed office, he has also withdrawn four million one hundred and eighty-three thousand five hundred dalasis (4,183,500.00) from different Council accounts.
“He said this withdrawal was for BsAC operations, but the audit could not substantiate if all these withdrawals were for council operations,” according to auditors who noted the same implications, saying there is a risk of lack of compliance with due process relating to payments.
The auditors recommended the Finance Director be investigated by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Lands and the CEO of the Council for all withdrawals and ensure payments made not used in BsAC operations are immediately refunded.
“The Finance Director should desist from withdrawing funds from council accounts and withdraw only payments for him. In addition, the Chief Executive Officer should not sign cheques in the names of council staff without following the due process of payment,” the auditors advised.