Lands Ministry Directs Exclusive Cheque Signatories at BAC To Be CEO Jonga And Finance Director
By Buba Gagigo
The Ministry of Lands, Regional Government and Religious Affairs has issued a memo clarifying that only the Brikama Area Council’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Modou Jonga, and Finance Director, Alagie Jeng, are authorized to sign cheques.
The ministry emphasized that, according to the Financial Management responsibilities outlined in the Local Government Finance and Audit Act 2004, the CEO and Director of Finance are designated signatories to all council accounts. In the event of their unavailability, the Director of Administration may serve as an alternative signatory.
“It has come to our attention that, in your current capacities as Acting Director of Administration and Finance Manager, you have been signing and issuing cheques on behalf of the Brikama Area Council as alternative signatories to accounts of the council. However, we would like to emphasise that, as per the Financial Management responsibilities of a council, as outlined in section 17 (2) of the Local Government Finance and Audit Act 2004, the Chief Executive Officer and the Director of Finance are the designated signatories to all council accounts. In the event of their unavailability, the Director of Administration may serve as an alternative signatory,” the ministry said.
The ministry further noted that under Section 202 of the Local Government Financial and Accounting Manual 2009, the Chief Executive Officer, in their capacity as Accounting Officer, holds responsibility for the overall management and supervision of the council’s financial and accounting operations, including the safeguarding of its assets. This responsibility aligns with the provisions outlined in Sections 43(1), (2), and (3) of the Local Government Act 2002.
“This overarching responsibility encompasses the authorisation of expenditure, collection, and disbursement of Council Funds,” the Lands Ministry explains.
The ministry also highlighted the overarching responsibility of the CEO, as the Accounting Officer, for the overall management and supervision of financial and accounting operations, as well as the safeguarding of assets, in accordance with relevant legislation. They clarified that financial transactions must receive proper authorisation from the CEO or any other delegated employee. The ministry acknowledged a council resolution recommending the removal of Jonga and Jeng but asserted that until legally suspended or removed by the Local Government Service Commission, their duties cannot be reassigned.
“Importantly, all financial transactions must receive proper authorisation from the Chief Executive Officer any other employee delegated by him. It is important to note that, at present, Mr. Momodou Jonga and Mr. Alagie Jeng hold their respective positions as the Chief Executive Officer and Director of Finance for the Brikama Area Council. While we acknowledge the Council Resolution dated 31st October 2023, recommending their removal by the Local Government Service Commission, however, until such time as they are legally suspended or removed from their positions by the Local Government Service Commission, their duties and functions cannot be usurped or assigned to subordinate officers in alternative capacities,” they said.
Expressing concern about unauthorized vouchers being cleared by the Internal Auditor, Sulayman Barry, leading to unauthorized payments, the ministry deemed such practices a breach of financial regulations and potentially a criminal offense. They urged an immediate cessation of authorizing payments or signing cheques while the CEO and Director of Finance are in active service.
“We wish to underscore that any payment not authorized by the Accounting Officer, who serves as the vote controller, is considered a breach of financial regulations and may constitute a criminal offence. We insist that such practices cease forthwith. In light of the aforementioned laws, regulations and circumstances, we, as the Ministry, in accordance with our oversight mandate under section 150 of the Local Government Act 2002, hereby urge you to immediately cease authorizing any payments or signing any cheques while the CEO and Director of Finance are in active service and present at work,” they said.
The ministry said they have also notified banks honouring cheques signed by individuals not authorized by the CEO and Director of Finance, emphasizing the importance of strict adherence to legal frameworks and financial accountability standards in managing public funds.
“We wish to emphasise the importance of accountability in the management of public funds. The monies deposited in the bank accounts associated with the Brikama Area Council are public funds, held in trust for the benefit of the community and governed by strict laws and regulations. As such, the disbursement of these funds must adhere to the prevailing legal framework and the highest standards of financial accountability,” they said.
Any deviation, the ministry warned, not only violates financial regulations but also undermines public trust. They vowed to take appropriate actions, including potential criminal investigations and prosecutions, to ensure compliance with laws and regulations at the Brikama Area Council.
“We urge all parties involved, including the banks, to recognise the gravity of this situation and take immediate corrective measures to ensure full compliance with the referred laws. As part of our duty to monitor compliance with laws, regulations and policies at the Brikama Area Council, we are unwavering in our commitment to take appropriate actions, including referring any further instances of non-compliance for criminal investigations and potential prosecutions,” they concluded.