Sierra Leone Telegraph: 10 December 2017
The parliament of Sierra Leone was dissolved last Wednesday, amid allegations that the Ernest Koroma cabinet had approved the purchasing of 223 jeeps to bribe senior government officials, paramount chiefs and judges, ahead of general and presidential elections.
The contract is said to be valued at about $16 million or Le121.6 billion. Some civil society groups are calling on international donors, the World Bank, IMF, DFID, Europe and American Government to hold the Koroma government accountable for the $10 million donated to president Koroma for the mudslide victims.
So as the country’s MPs make their way to their respective constituencies in preparation for next year’s general and presidential elections, not many of them will return to parliament after March 2018
The general consensus of most Sierra Leoneans is that they have been woefully failed by their MPs, who instead of serving their interests in parliament have spent the last five in some cases ten years feathering their own nests.
This is how two commentators describe the return of Sierra Leone’s MPS to their respective constituencies and the closing of parliament last week:
Lusine Kallon says:
The President of Sierra Leone gave his farewell speech in the well of Parliament last Wednesday. The speech left Sierra Leoneans in doubt as to whether the president was sincere with the people of Sierra Leone or not.
The APC government has sentenced education to death by hanging, mass failure and dropouts of children from schools without acquiring the basic standards of education, awful conditions of service for both teachers and lecturers, strike actions over unpaid salaries and allowances, congested classrooms and insufficient infrastructure to house the pupils – with no provision for the 6 -3 -4 -4 system of Education they put on place, etc.
Our export rates are very high says the president. If our export rates are high, then why is the dollar rate so high in the country?
Our country can boast of trillions of currency reserves says the president. But why is it that some ministries have their allocations and salaries unpaid until now?
Youth unemployment is the order of day in Sierra Leone, which has resulted in an increase in crime rate. 40% of Sierra Leoneans go to bed on empty stomach.
President Koroma’s disrespect for our MPs was manifested in broad daylight. There is no way you crosscheck a pile of documents for the approval of a ministerial candidate within three days. But in Sierra Leone our MPs have done that.
In Sierra Leone, let us judge our past MPs by their report cards and see how many will pass the test. Some of the responsibilities of MPs are as follows:
Open Door Policy: Transparency in all activities. How many will boast of their tenures as being accountable to their party, electorates and citizens?
Oversight: Ensure that public institutions spend or disburse monies that were allocated to them correctly. With the high rate of corruption and the leakages in our country, how many institutions were exposed by our Parliamentarians for corruption?
It all happened because our MPs were not doing their jobs, especially those members of the oversight committee. Parliament has never indicted any institution as part of their function.
Law Making: Our Parliamentarians are so porous that they do not work in the interest of the country but themselves. For example – The Toll Road. It’s only in Sierra Leone that people have started paying for toll road that is not even thirty five percent complete. But yet still we are paying. Because our Parliamentarians approved the Bill, now it has become a law.
Legislation: That has to do with Justice and the rule of law. How many legislative bills were passed in the interest of the country?
How many MPs ever tabled a private member’s Bill in parliament? How many MPs can boast of an office in his or her constituency?
On that note, I present our “Honourables” to citizens of this country to judge them.
This is what another concerned citizen says about the closing of parliament last Wednesday:
Parliament is dissolved, or simply put – as I heard the common man say in the streets of Freetown- “Parliament don lock”.
Indeed it is an end of an era, but huge legacy to always remember this immediate past Parliament for. They watered down a lot of standards, including even the position of their own speaker which was normally a post held by a judge. They deliberately expunged or removed the standard criteria for personal reasons and of course to pursue specific interests.
They lowered the percentage tax government should receive from minerals to a very low rate. They did not cough, neither asked questions why the president sacked his vice president from Office at a time the nation was finding its way out of the Ebola menace.
This past Parliament removed the sting from the most compelling Auditor General’s report that found massive misuse of Ebola and related government funds.
This Parliament made civil society had the sleepless of nights for the wrong reasons – summoning of journalists to answer questions for reporting corruption; intending to pass outrageous bills including extending the lifespan of the presidency and Parliament, by adding time on the established electoral calendar, etc.
But more disturbing, was the fact that even when nominees were blatantly found to have forged their academic and other qualifications, this Parliament gave a clean and smooth passage to those nominees to serve in very sensitive public positions.
Amidst these striking legacies, I heard there was frantic efforts in parliament to desperately secure astronomical retirement package for themselves, including a very special one for a non-justice speaker.
How I wish they could have just asked Mr. President to explain to them why he sacked his vice; supported the ACC to pursue the Auditor General’s report to the next level; raised standards in governance – including setting leadership competency criteria for key offices such as the presidency, Chief Justice, speaker, ministers and others, in line with best practice and international standards.
They could have raised the percentage government should get from minerals; they could have ensured that salaries and generic conditions of service for active public workers, including prompt and regular payment of salaries of active workers in the country instead of their retirement package.
Not too sure there were many significant legislative achievements that will stay in the minds of the people. Bye, bye Honourable Members of immediate past Parliament.