Anti-Corruption Commissioner’s press conference is unconstitutional – Op ed

Clifford Mohammed Deen: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 22 December 2021:

A persistent friend who is like a fly that irritates me, asked if I followed the illegitimate Anti-Corruption Commissioner’s Press Conference. I swiftly retorted that illegitimacy and myself are not good bedfellows. Sadly, such a bright and intelligent young man, allowed himself to be an accomplice in an unconstitutional process, that installed him without Parliamentary due process, is not an individual I will put my feet up on my Office Desk to watch.

Knowing my persistent and irritating friend, he informed me that the Press Conference held by the Anti-Corruption Gate Keeper has been circulated on WhatsApp audio and he has shared it with me.

Well persistent irritating fly friend of mine, I have listened to the Press Conference by the Commissioner. The Anti-Corruption Commissioner’s comments struck me as either he was attempting to do a damage limitation on behalf of Mr President or felt pushed to prematurely come out publicly, due to people’s anger, that the very highest office in the land is marred in fraudulent malpractices.

In that regard, Ben either deliberately or unintentionally creates a smokescreen by usurping the laid down due process of NOT allowing the Public Accounts Committee / Parliament as first responder to complete their legislative and Constitutional duties, before his Institution can respond to that body’s recommendations.

I would not dwell on his long speech and what his institution intend to do, if and when the process reaches his domain.

However, I would like to just outline a few issues, which in my humble view seem at odds with the established process. So let me start by saying:

1) That the Press Conference by Ben, seems miscalculated and struck me as being conducted for public consumption, due to issues raised in the redacted 2020 Audited Report of GoSL.

In particular, the issue that specifically relates to the Office of the President and the public dismay that the Office of the President can deliberately tender receipts that were deceptive, dishonest and fraudulent.

Ben being a lawyer, knows that attention to detail is the cornerstone of making exceptional representation. Therefore, Legal Professionals do not just look at the surface written or spoken text but rather to identify sublime, written or spoken texts that most laypeople would miss. To put it more simply, Legal Professionals don’t only look for the sexy and eye-catching texts, but they pay more attention to the boring texts.

2) Let me start by saying that the ACC does not have to wait to scrutinise the 2020 Audited accounts of GoSL. In fact, a proactive organisation will start a bookworm detailed scrutiny of the reports, to give it a head start in making sure that the process reaches its domain. Such a head start creates an advanced yardstick measurement, that makes the task become a mopping up exercise and cross referencing the first principal responder’s recommendations Report.  Ben alluded to that in the WhatsApp Press Conference audio.

Ben elucidated that the 2020 Audited Report tabled before Parliament will and should be scrutinised by that body’s Committee (PAC) and as the first responder. That any recommendations made by that Committee, will be forwarded to the ACC for any further investigations of criminal and fraudulent malpractices that both Audit Services Sierra Leone and Parliament through the Public Accounts Committee, identified in the 2020 Audited Report.

For the purpose of understanding, ASSL prepares their report, outlining the audit processes and “Qualified Opinion”. The Report will include any issues they identify as requiring the attention of Parliament through PAC and its secondary organ the ACC.

Make no mistake about this, the ACC is an organ of Parliament, created by an Act of Parliament. Not this continuous nonsense, that the ACC operates under the President. The people are supreme, and Parliament through its Members serve as the people’s legitimate representatives.

Let me be clear, I am of the school of thought that argues against “Written” Constitution for a number of disadvantageous reasons. One of the primary disadvantageous reasons is that “Written” Constitutions are sometimes problematic in the various interpretations of the meanings that Constitutional Lawyers attribute to words. Another issue for me around “Written” Constitutions is what I termed time and era constraint (rigidity), which may not be fit for purpose in an ever-changing world.

The fact that “Written” Constitutional matters can be drilled into varied contesting ideas of interpretation, makes it in my humble opinion, a tool that the politicians periodically use to abrogate their responsibility to the people, who are supreme. Just a slight pet hate digression.

Back to the Press Conference. It begs the question as to why the Commissioner had such an urgency to call and institute such an impromptu Press Conference on a matter, which has just been tabled in Parliament.

The 2020 Audited Report is a legislative mandate delegated to Parliament, which is still yet to be scrutinised by the Public Accounts Committee. The said Committee has a responsibility for the first responder scrutiny and preparation of its own Report findings to be submitted to Parliament.

The Committee will also furnish a copy of their report findings and any recommendations contained within, to the ACC, for any identifiable issues needing further actions within the ambit of the ACC remits. Therefore, the Commissioner’s Press Conference in my view seems to have usurped this laid down procedural format.
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As stated above, there is nothing wrong with the ACC in being proactive in scrutinising the 2020 Audited Report of GoSL in tandem with PAC’s own legislative duty. However, it is rather odd that the Commissioner can confer a Press Conference prematurely to discuss the 2020 Audited Report in public with detailed figures, which can easily influence the PAC’s own authentic and legitimate parliamentary scrutiny of that Audited Report.

I submit that four things were at play that forced the unwitty hands of the Commissioner to appear in public, oblivious to his miscalculated and unfortunate pre-emptive irrational strike in convening such a Press Conference.

That his masquerade, unnecessary Press Conference was an attempt on damage limitation to appease a restless public reeling from the grotesque corrupt practices across the usual annual suspects but more so disturbing, a panacea of such corrupt practices also took place directly within the highest office in the land.

In my view the illegitimate Commissioner’s hands seem to have been forced by the public, that he unceremoniously abandoned lay down procedural processes, leading him to prematurely comment publicly on matters yet to be completed by the first responder PAC / Parliament.

The issue Ben referred to in relation to putting the President on a criminal trial, I can best describe as youthful exuberance. I am pretty sure my young Brother, on reflection, will be slapping himself for even having the audacity to make such an unfortunate and sterile comment.

Let’s be clear here, whilst I might not so confidently put my last £1 on my village relatives not having both the time and cognitive attributes, to understand that an active President has an immunity from prosecution, I may chance my bet, that those journalists whose attendance he requested are very much ofay with the immunity embodiment of a President as long as they actively remain in that Office.

So, it was quite bizarre that Ben should even try to explain that aspect of immunity. Unless he is telling some of us who have less dealings with Sierra Leone journalists, that he is adept to some type of Journalistic acumen that limits their understanding of the role of the three Arms of State and the level of immunity conferred on those Institutions.

So, yes Ben, the people do know and understand the limitations of your powers and when and how such powers can be executed.

The people know the clear distinction that a fit for purpose Parliament has the legal mandates to demonstrate its Will, by tabling an impeachment motion to remove a sitting President on a vote of “No Confidence”.

If such a motion is tabled and commands two thirds majority of the Parliament, then it follows that a current President can be removed from Office. As Ben clearly understands, that will open the door for the Institution he leads, to pursue any outstanding pertinent issues that are in the public interest.

So, no need in trying to educate the people on issues that they are acquainted with and have the requisite competence knowledge about.

Stop being an apologist for Mr President by substituting responsibility to those below him for issues of malpractices, specifically with regards fraudulent receipts that he was named as the beneficiary.

Have you forgotten the principle legal terminology of “let the buyer beware”? Mr President is an accomplice in a matter that put him in a place for which he himself knew he was never present.

Commissioner, the idea that you can conclude that such malpractices is a subterfuge of institutional lapses, before the first responders complete its scrutiny of the 2020 Audited Report, and your own institution’s ability to thoroughly examine and redouble your analysis of that report, is sadly a travesty and tragedy of upholding the trust of your office. Albeit you attain your office through an illegitimate process.

The Commissioner’s consistent use of the statement that – and I quote: “The President and I work closely on the fight against corruption,” actually makes the fight against corruption a proverbial stunt on the people.

Just to remind the illegitimate Commissioner, you told the people that Mr President declared his assets on assuming high office. That in itself lays bare your contradictory statement on whether the President can be culpable in complicity, as joint enterprise to a criminal act whilst in office.

Just for me to repeat my statement above, I concede your mandate limits you out of the reach of a sitting President with immunity, to proffer or litigate criminal charges to appear before a competent Court of Law.

However, you cannot absolve yourself from your professional and citizenry obligation and duties, not to recommend to the authoritative body (Parliament) any material evidence you and your team may unearth, which in your legal and professional duty, requires your advice to Parliament, to action.

Precariously it behoves many Sierra Leoneans to hear the Commissioner to publicly absolved the President in a matter of clear breach of trust within his own office. The Commissioner pre-empting the outcome of the scrutiny and any findings from Parliament, by substituting and apportioning blame to an object “institutional lapse”, I submit is an untenable position.

Rightly, such public utterance by the Commissioner, deserved and created the mutterings by the people of a deliberate attempt to cover up the President’s complicity in those fraudulent receipts saga.

To complete, I have kindly informed my irritating friend, that my seventh sense was correct, not to put my feet on my desk, and use my relatively luxurious free time to watch the live Press Conference.

However, since he is a persistent irritating fly, I did listen to the WhatsApp audio today. In a loving tone, I informed him that I have only responded to issues I identified as odds with the laid down due process. That every other issue of note, is best not commented on because it will be rather prejudicial to Parliament and PAC as the first responder to hopefully do due diligence in scrutinising the 2020 Audited Report as part of their Constitutional and legislative duty.

By the way folks, my use of the word illegitimate should not be interpreted as a personal attack on Ben’s person. In fact, I believe that he is a brilliant and highly intelligent young Brother. My use of the word illegitimate, will remain my descriptive terminology, because of the pervasive and unconstitutional process conducted by rogue politicians to usurp the correct and due process, by which he was illegitimately imposed on the people.

About the author

Clifford Mohammed Deen is the Former Vice Chairman of the NGC Party – UK&I

 

7 Comments

  1. Happy New Year to the Editor, Staff of the Telegraph and all commentators on the forum, whether green,red, blue or white.We are all Sierra Leoneans.

    As we enter 2022, I will quote a Creole Proverb. “99 days for the thief and one day for the master of the house”.
    A note to the writer of the piece, the term, excuse my French is au fait, not ofay. Furthermore, a press conference is the legal right of all citizens and officials of a state, to say it is unconstitutional is a bit too far.

  2. Any sane individual, devoid of delusional tendencies, who have followed, observed, and critically analysis from time to time the actions, procedures, and corruption indictment cases, brought forth by Mr. Ben Kelfala ACC leadership over the course of the past 4 years, should and must certainly come to the conclusion that, the man is nothing but a puppet, being use as a stooge to cover up the ruling criminal cabal obsessive thieving habits, while at the same time, severing as an attack dog against political opponents.

    Upon coming into office, we’ve all observed the lightening speed in which Mr. Kelfala operates, in publicly shaming and charging to court former regime officials for corruption, with successive previous annual audits reports, serving as malfeasance archives as well as referencing source for all indictments brought forth. There was never a press conference held by Mr. Ben, to explain to the public that those corruption malfeasance highlighted on successive previous audit reports should not be taken serious, and that, they could well surmount to mere clerical errors and laziness by MDAs staff, equivalent to what he Mr. Ben now classify as ‘institutional lapses’.

    So by all indications, Mr. Ben is and has been part of the corruption syndicate, hemorrhaging our nation’s meager resources. The guy has benefited immensely in terms of wealth, name recognition under the pretense of being a no nonsense corruption crusade czar(pestering and annihilating opposition figures), and even manage to obtain an international part time job. All these goodies in his personal life are made possible by his political masters, who happen to be the most criminal thieving cabal in our nation’s political history. So it’s no surprise to observe the exuberances always display by Mr. Ben in protecting and defending his bosses whenever they are caught stealing.

    Happy holidays and a prosperous coming new year to all forumites, with special prayers and blessings to the Sierra Leone Telegraph editorial team, not forgetting a few patriotic participants, whose energies and spirits, have always been to seek the interest of our nation, rather than political demi-gods and parties.

  3. Mr. Sahr Matturi, I hope you are not that naive to believe that President Bio will think about doing money laundering or falsifying receipts while he was fighting for his life. This is “ Corruption fighting back” based on the fact former President Koroma has been accused of money laundering so the Deputy Auditor General ( APC leaker ) who I personally believe is responsible for all these bogus allegations because his boss who is a decent lady came out and apologized for the $5 billion so-called mistake on the 2019 Audit Report on Radio 98.1. This was the same guy that lied about the missing generator and 40 laptops for NERCOVaC in the special Audit Report.

    For over two decades, our country has never been part of the Africa Nations Cup based on the fact that only President Talk and Do Bio has the key to inspire and motivate our nation, and now most Sierra Leoneans are not only busy enjoying themselves during this festive season but also anticipating the possibility of bringing the Cup home in February 2022.. On the down side, the youths are focused on the incidents between rapper LAJ and our popular and respected Journalist Mrs Asma James, and most recently the “Mammy Cuss” between Kao Denero and the APC “Mammy Cuss” machine. That’s the unfortunate truth based on the fact that most people believe that Corruption is endemic in our country and our permanent secretaries of MDA who supposed to be professionals continues their lackluster performances by not accounting for expenditures.

    Thankfully, our ACC Commissioner Ben Kaifala has promised to hold them accountable whilst our parliamentarians who recently overwhelmingly ( including Kandeh Yumkella of NGC) voted to give President Bio a blank check for Imprest which he rejected, are still going on a “fools errand” year in and year out. God bless you too and I wish our “Fair and Balanced” Editor Mr. Thomas and our brothers and Sisters of this glorious forum, and readers HAPPY HOLIDAYS.

  4. In May 11th 2021, in an interview with CNN anchor Zain Asher, president Bio was asked by the presenter, there has been allegations of corruption leveled against his wife Mrs Fatima Bio, and his friend and mentor professor David Francis, what will happen to them if the allegations are proven? President Bio went on to lecture Mrs Asher, about how Sierra Leone is a law abiding country.That every thing his government does is within the perimeter of the laws of the country. The jury is still out on that one. Anyway, Bio went on, anyone can make allegations of corruption against any individual, but unless they have the evidence to back it up, there is no chance in hell the individuals accused are corrupt. That is what I call straight batting by the president, defending a family member and a friend accused of corruption.

    Nevermind the evidence of malfeasance of corruption by this two individuals and others in the Bio orbit, presented to the general public by the anti graft investigative Africanist press, that is yet to attract the attention of the ACC commissioner. In that interview, the president seemed to be exonerated his peoples of any wrong doing, even though the cases were never put into a test in an anti corruption probe by the ACC. Here again, just like the president, the ACC commissioner Mr Ben Kalifah is publicly offering his rebuttals of the allegations made in the 2020 audit reports by Mrs Taylor and her team, without, presenting the evidence to back it up. It comes back to what Bio said in that CNN interview. If someone makes an allegations, they have to put it into test by providing the information and evidence to back it up. In the eyes of all right thinking anti corruption Sierra Leoneans, the only person that seems to have produced the evidence and the papers to back it up, that we are dealing with a corrupt cabal in the form of Bio and his government, is Mrs Lara Pearce Taylor.

    The ACC commissioner can come out with all guns blazing trying to shoot the messenger, at the end we know where the truth lies. The truth is open secret. We are seeing new villas going up in the Freetown area. And built by once poor politicians. Our roads network is one of the worst in west Africa. Hospital and public health is at breaking point. Even Freetown is not guaranteed 24hours electricity. A run away inflation, that have pushed up the prices of every day households items. Rice, peper, ogrie, Pamine, cassava leaves, fish, meat, etc. I wish to take this opportunity and wish Mr Abdul Rashid Thomas and the Management, Staff of the Sierra Leone Telegraph a merry Christmas.

  5. Thanks to Commissioner Francis Ben Kaifala for elevating our country’s Credibility on the Fight Against Corruption . Every Patriotic Sierra Leonean should be proud of this young man. The United States gave countries around the world world the opportunity to receive Free Money ( MCC) to develop either the Electricity, Water or Road infrastructures which Senegal, Ghana and our closest Neighbor Liberia had benighted from, and very soon, we will also be rewarded for our untiring efforts. Unfortunately, under the 11 years Misrule of the APC party, our former ACC commissioners aided and abetted former President Koroma not only to loot our nation, but also represented the thieves at the just concluded COI.

    It was no brainer that the suspended Auditor General used to expose the Corruption of the lifetime leader of the APC based on the fact that we were rated as the most corrupt country on the planet, but on the contrary, under President Bio, although we are now highly rated, this same Auditor General has once apologized for her mistakes on the 2019 Audit Report when she falsely accused the Bio Administration of embezzling $ 5 billion. Now she has accused President Bio of forgery when he was fighting for his life in Lebanon, even though our president has Executive Privilege not to even turn in documents which former President Koroma use to refer to as classified documents. Fortunately, after the 2018 elections victory, the Government Transitional Report, the forensic Audit and COI which were conducted by foreigners unearthed the massive corruption of the APC.

    Finally, I believe that the Auditor General has once again succeeded in creating Sensational News about President Bio for the consumption of the Social Media especially in the diaspora, because most of our citizens who are currently focusing on n the upcoming African Nations Cup not Audit Report, still believes that President Talk and Do Bio has the nation at heart and they are ready to give him a second chance in 2023 or 2024 presidential elections.. May the almighty continue to bless Commissioner Ben Kaifala for Keeping the Records Straight about our Constitution.

    • “because most of our citizens who are currently focusing on n the upcoming African Nations Cup not Audit Report”, says Mr Alusine Fallay. This is typical of most SLPP supporters, and this distraction tactic is unfortunate. I thought Mr Alusine Fallay would be discussing the corruption within the presidency instead of talking about the African Nations Cup. There is a severe corruption allegation in the report concerning people working in the presidency. The presidency should be an area with zero corruption, but it appeared they took the lead to make the president look bad. How can the Anti Corruption Commission have zero corruption whilst the presidency is infested with corrupt officials?

      President Bio must sack anyone who in whatever way is involved in any corrupt crime and throw them in the jobless wilderness forever. This is the first step to bringing confidence and respect to the presidency. Are those involved not ashamed of themselves? God help clean the presidency of corrupt officials. God bless Mr Alusine Fallay and our economy.

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