By: Kebba Ansu Manneh
There is growing concern at Kuntaur Area Council after the Chairman, Saihou Jawara, has been in the US since September and is deemed unofficially overstayed in America.
Insiders at the area council and residents of the local government area have expressed their concern about the extended stay of Chairman Jawara after completing a 14-day mission with the Chief Executive Officer of the Kuntaur Area Council, Momodou Sambou.
CEO Momodou Sambou has since returned to the country, leaving behind Chairman Jawara, who is now into his three-month stay in the US and reportedly claiming to be meeting with “investors.”
They were both in the US to attend a conference of Mayors from September 21st to October 4th, 2023.
Jawara’s absence has triggered a lot of speculation as to whether he will be back in the country anytime soon to continue leading the affairs of Gambia’s poorest area council.
The Kuntaur Area Council and the Local Government Service Commission have yet to make any public statements on the matter.
However, council insiders and sources have confirmed that he has stayed in the US beyond the 14 days he was granted.
TAT contacted CEO Sambou to shed light on the matter, who declined to comment and referred our reporter to the Deputy Chairman, Councillor Musa Bah.
During a general council meeting, Bah confirmed that Jawara had indeed overstayed but had officially handed over to him to run the council’s affairs pending his return.
Jawara had told him he would be back sometime in January through WhatsApp messages but not official communication channels.
“I have been communicating with Chairman Jawara through WhatsApp, who informed me that he is waiting to meet investors in the USA before returning in January.”
Bah, further disclosed that Jawara also sent him a letter asking for an extension of his stay and that he intends to convene a general council meeting on the matter.
Meanwhile, one Councilor confided to TAT that Chairman Jawara’sJawara’s US trip generated heated debate within the general council and was referred to the Finance Committee for consideration since the budget for the trip was D600 000 and was more than the council’scouncil’s entire transport budget for the year.
He further revealed that Jawara insisted that the council approve the US trip at a time when it lacks the financial resources to fund the trip.
A local government expert who spoke to TAT described Jawara’sJawara’s long absence from his desk without proper approval as “illegal and unprofessional” since the chairman, like any other public servant, is only entitled to one month holiday in a given year and under no circumstances should he spend more than two months from work except on medical leave.
TAT will engage officials of the Local Government Ministry and Local Government Service Commission to get their reaction to developments at the Kuntaur area council.
Now, according to the councilor we interviewed, Jawara’s absence reminded him of the former Chairman Fafa Touray, who in 2006 failed to return from the US and later sent in his resignation letter from America.