Sierra Leone Telegraph: 20 February 2015
The debate in Sierra Leone continues into the millions of dollars missing from the Ebola fund meant to take care of the sick and dying, which have now topped 10,000 cases and more than 3,000 dead respectively.
And the country’s main opposition MPs have reacted furiously to the government’s parliamentary leader’s shameless attempt to stop the media and the people of Sierra Leone from discussing the findings of the country’s Auditor General into the missing funds.
Yesterday, opposition MPs belonging to the Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP), made it loud and clear in a statement, that the government’s leader of parliament – Ibrahim Bundu, does not speak for the entire parliament, and in particular, does not represent the views of the opposition SLPP.
“As a democratic Party, we frown at any attempt to silence or restrict the general public and the Press from discussing matters of importance affecting the lives and welfare of the people of Sierra Leone, especially one of such urgent nature,” says SLPP MPs.
‘Not in our name’ – was the message sent by the SLPP parliamentarians to president Koroma’s parliamentary stooge, as the entire country reels from the attempted imposition of a unilateral gagging order by the government on the people of Sierra Leone.
This is what the opposition SLPP MPs said in their statement:
“The public may recall that the Auditor General’s Report on the management of Ebola funds for May to October, 2014 was laid before Parliament on 12th February, 2015.
Since then, it engendered public attention and intense debate on the findings and recommendations in the report from diverse actors, institutions and organizations both in and out of Sierra Leone.
On Tuesday 17th February, 2015, the Majority Leader and Leader of Government Business in Parliament, Hon Ibrahim Bundu, stood on Standing Order 23 and read out a statement in which he imputed to have been done on behalf of Parliament as a whole. (Photo: Bernadette Lahai – opposition SLPP leader in parliament).
In his statement, Hon Bundu maintained that: “Parliament as a legislature therefore needs to clarify its position for the general public to be guided on matters of procedure regarding the audit report and the role of Parliament”.
In a similar development, on Thursday 19th February, 2015, the Majority Party Leader and Leader of Government Business, and the Commissioner of the Anti-Corruption issued a press release in which it was purported that the ACC and Parliament have “resolved to collaborate with a view to ensuring an equitable, fair and thorough process”.
As SLPP MPs, we want the general public to note that we were neither informed, nor consulted or otherwise involved in the said positions.
We view the ACC as an independent institution capable of executing its functions without external dictates.
We therefore unequivocally dissociate ourselves from the said statement\press release issued by Hon Ibrahim Bundu.
On the subject of procedure on dealing with the audit report on management of Ebola funds, the Majority Leader in his statement relied on sub sections (4) and (5) of section 119 of the 1991 Constitution to justify the role of Parliament in taking lead on the report. (Photo: The dishonourable government leader in parliament – Ibrahim Bundu),
As a party in Parliament, we want it to be known that sub-section (4) applies only to the annual audited report of Sierra Leone.
The report in question falls under sub-section (7) which deals with special reports of “audit at any particular time” and therefore need not follow the procedure as stipulated in sub-section (4).
Furthermore, by sub-section (5), “Parliament shall debate the report of the Auditor General and appoint where necessary in the public interest a committee to deal with any matters arising therefrom”.
As a party in Parliament, we are of the conviction that the said report should be debated by the whole house before being sent to a committee, where necessary.
We consider this action by the Majority Leader as a violation of sub-section (5) of section 119, and an attempt to delay debate on such a sensitive report of great public concern.
As a democratic Party, we frown at any attempt to silence or restrict the general public and the Press from discussing matters of importance affecting the lives and welfare of the people of Sierra Leone, especially one of such urgent nature.
In any case, Standing Order 75, on which the Majority Leader relied, only deals or relates to “evidence given before” a Select Committee in Parliament.
Therefore, Hon. Bundu’s dependence on Standing Order 75 to silence the media is a virtual contravention of the fundamental rights provision in section 25 of the Constitution of Sierra Leone, which guarantees freedom of expression and the press.
In conclusion, we, the SLPP Members of Parliament strongly endorse the position of our party as published in a Press Release dated February 14th, 2015 and therefore call on the Anti-Corruption Commission to vigorously carry out its mandate relating to the Audit Report on Management of the Ebola Funds.”