By Omar Bah
The mayor of the Kanifing Municipal Council has called on the government to either empower the area councils or scrap them.
A frustrated Talib Bensouda told Star FM in an interview aired yesterday that “if they [central government] don’t want to empower the area councils or feel like the councils are threats to [the] political ambitions [of leaders in government] they should create laws to ban them.”
He said mayors in Senegal “are very powerful” because they are empowered “but in The Gambia, the Ministry of Local Government is reluctant to give councils their dues”.
Mayor Bensouda said he was not happy that the permanent secretary at the ministry mocked him at the National Assembly over the government’s decision to charge import levies on the waste collection trucks they purchased.
“The PS should be very careful because he would not know what could happen next. We should see The Gambia and not partisan politics. His response was disrespectful to the people of KMC. They cannot give us responsibility and seize our powers from us,” he added.
The mayor said his comments are out of frustration at the government’s lack of political will to support area and municipal councils when in fact government gets the credit for whatever they do.
“In terms of capacity building the government has not done anything for us. Even when they have trainings, they demand us to pay for it. Even the Local Government Service Commission is paid for by the councils. They only gave us D1 million last year when our subvention should be D30 million,” he revealed.
Mayor Bensouda said KMC’s revenue has gone up to D200 million while its development fund has gone up to D120 million.
Commenting on the criticism of frequent overseas travels, Bensouda said: “Councils in other countries are travelling all over the world to learn best practices. Should we stay poor and backward because we are Gambians? I will want to leave behind a developed Gambia which my kids will find comfortable to live in. This is not about partisan politics. All I am clarifying is that the ministry must have the passion to empower councils. They must have the passion because if the councils don’t work, Gambians will never have a good standard of living.”
The KMC mayor said his council is projected to generate over D300 million revenue before he leaves office, adding, “we could even go up to a billion [dalasis].”