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.
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