By Muhammed L. Bojang
The Kafuta Village Development Committee (VDC) on Saturday held a press conference to counter the allegations recently levelled against them by the Concerned Citizens Movement who accused them of embezzlement of public funds and corrupt practices against the villagers of Kafuta.
Speaking to the reporters during the press conference held in the village, Mr. Malang Jatta, chairman of the VDC said their executive was selected by the Council of Elders and the Alkalo and that it had now been part of the long-standing tradition of the village.
He said the Local Government Act 2002, Section 146, Subsection (2) (C) makes provisions for the Alkalo, among others, to safeguard the tradition, customs and culture of the village and promote the wellbeing of its people, and based on that, members of the VDC were selected.
“We never promised that we came to serve for only six months as we just could not take such a decision without fulfilling our mandate in accordance with how the village had been administered by the old VDC. We were attached to the previous VDC to learn from them, It was like an induction and we fully took over after the expiry of the six months transition,” Chairman Jatta said, describing how they came into office, debunking claims that they had been handpicked by the Alkalo and a few village elders.
Mr. Jatta also stated that they did not sell gravel, alleging that it was the previous VDC who sold it and handed over the money to them, an amount of D720, 000 after they assumed office and that it is on record. He also confirmed that part of that money had been spent on business registration and other development projects within the village.
Another VDC executive member, Ebou Jarju, explained that the Concerned Citizens had asked some questions which he said kept them thinking as most of them did neither understood nor been aware of the circumstances surrounding the issue of the business registration and he also accused others of having a hidden agenda against the VDC.
“They said the business is private and if it is owned by Kafuta Village why was it registered as a private business? They also accused us of being the shareholders of the company and we made ourselves as board members sharing the money generated.
“Every company has its structures and laws governing it and we have followed the due process of registering the company. We wanted to register the company in the name of Kafuta VDC only to be told by the Department of Geology that we could not register a mining company under their Act and already we were halfway through the registration process and spending over D300,000 hiring the consultant to draft us a business plan and documents,” he said.
Therefore he added that at that point, they had only two choices; either cancel the whole process and forget about everything and lose over D300,000 or their executive members take the risks to make sure the business was registered.
“Since it could not be registered in the name of Kafuta VDC, we came together and formed a social business and registered it as a private company and we informed everyone. The so-called Concerned Citizens did not even understand that social business means those who form the business have zero bututs in benefits and any fund we want to spend most be fully explained. That is the rule governing the social business,” Mr. Jarju explained.
Abdoulie F. Bojang, the Finance Director of the VDC gave an account of the two currently active bank accounts of the VDC. He stated that D214,313 had been generated so far by the Jarisu Social Development Enterprise (JSDE) and the main source of the income of the VDC was the quarry and that income was being generated every week and the other sources were the village community forest which he said was jointly managed and he also stated that the amount in the other VDC account was D34,655.
Lamin Camara the Secretary to the Kafuta VDC said they had hired a consultant, who he said was a business expert to provide them with a business document to guide them on how to operate and he also reaffirmed that neither the village nor the VDC had land and currently they were mining on the farmland of the Alkalo who allocated them his land so that both his family and the village can reap the benefits.
The Imam of the village Janko Gassama also gave his support to the VDC, explaining that the village elders entrusted the members with the responsibility of taking the leadership of the VDC because they believed that they can bring significant progress and development in the village during their term in office.