Joseph Fitzgerald Kamara (JFK): Sierra Leone Telegraph: 17 March 2021:
Discourse and controversy surrounding the functions and independence of the Office of the Auditor-General of Sierra Leone are not new. (Photo above: Joseph Fitzgerald Kamara, former Attorney General of Sierra Leone).
As Attorney-General in 2016, our offices issued a Legal Opinion on the subject matter: that the Auditor-General’s Office is a creature of the Constitution, and any other law inconsistent with that mandate under the Constitution is ultra vires.
The Fiscal Management Control Act (“FMCA”) was drafted and prepared during my tenure, and it did not amend nor intended to affect the provisions relative to the Audit Service. (Photo: Auditor-General – Lara Taylor Pearce).
Therefore, the Constitution remains the primary and supreme law, as compared to any subsidiary legislation including but not limited to the FMCA.
The current threats and arm-twisting politics, surrounding the role and functions of the Audit Service, are unwelcome and worrisome. Let us build institutions and not undermine them.
This is what another high-profile commentator had to say yesterday on this subject:
“I did a complete write up on this issue highlighting the process for appointing and relieving the Auditor General of his/her position, the independence of the office and its relationship with Parliament. It received over 6,000 viewers on social media in 48 hours.
“This issue of paying all moneys collected by MDAs into the Consolidated Revenue Fund does not take into account other existing laws including provisions in the Constitution. A typical example is the fund for Road Maintenance as prescribed in the Road Maintenance Fund Administration Act 2010.
“The fund was created to safeguard and maintain our deteriorating road infrastructure. It consists of fuel levy; vehicle/driver licensing fee and other regulatory fees collected by the SLRSA and road tolls when they are applied on certain sections of the road network.
“Now that these funds are directly controlled by the Ministry of Finance there is delay in allocating funds for the core network and rural roads.
“The Ministry of Finance now allocates funds for these activities leaving the RMFA defunct. That is why we had to pay the Chinese a whooping sum of $1 million for repairing of the 11 metres Savage Street Bridge……a new trajectory!”
This is a big problem, worldwide. The mainstream media (newspaper, radio, tv) very often dominated by governments, political parties or strong financial groups is only seemingly a free press. And the tendency to suppress alternative media becomes more and more (look youtube).
In countries around the world, the constitution is tbe bedrock of their democracy. Majority of countries around the world that uphold the rule of law, Free Press, an elected representative body for the people, derive their powers from the constitution. And the separation of powers between the executive, legislative branches of government, and the independence of the judiciary, can all be found to be embedded in their national constitution. The human race tendencies to exercise power over other fellow humans, especially vulnerable minority ethnic, religious and racial groupings that make up nation states, dictates we come together, putting our differences aside and work out a formula on how we want to be governed for the purposes of living in peace and harmony. And working for the common good. Hence we have the documents, we call the constitution that underpins that national agreement.
So it is the responsibility of every elected government, and we the ordinary people, that we make sure the country is governed within tbe perimeters as dictated by the constitution. We the ordinary citizens should not allow the government to monopolise that power. Thats why it is important we have a free press to check and inform the general public about tbe activities of those in government. The press plays an active role by jealously protecting the constitution and holding governments to account. And the press also police tbe government to make sure they don’t abuse it. No individual citizen or government has the right to interfere or amend the constitution without public consultation, or amendments made by the elected representatives of the people.
Sometimes if governments are so minded in wanting to make changes to tbe constitution, one of the ways they can do it is through public consultations, and the recommendations are put through a referendum so the public can vote on the proposals. So what Bio and his government are doing in trying to curtail the powers of the Auditors General, Mrs Lara Pearce-Taylor is not only unconstitutional, but is gross abuse of power entrusted to them by the Sierra Leonean public. And we should not allow that to happen.
In the years leading towards the end of our 11yrs civil war, former president Ahmed Tejan Kabbah was credited for reviving and initiating a host of national institutions, needed as a catalyst for meaningful development. Despite the overwhelming desire for such independent institutions, especially those responsible for regulatory and enforcement measures, successive regimes, especially the current PAOPA one, is hell bent on dismantling those institutions for personal and political gains. You begin to wonder, whether or not we are heading anywhere.