Winstanley R. Bankole Johnson: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 17 November 2021:
With hindsight to his letter of 22nd February 2015 to former President Koroma, even the best of clairvoyants would have been much challenged predicting a no love lost relationship between President Maada Bio and Auditor General Mrs. Lara Taylor-Pearce this soon.
In that letter then Mr. Bio lavished praises on Mrs. Taylor-Pearce for professionalism and commitment to duty and also braided the former President Koroma on the need to stay on the straight and narrow by allowing for due audit processes of the Ebola Funds to flow, irrespective of the fact that it was under a State of Emergency. As Mr. Bio stressed: “delay to do so is causing so much adverse publicity that has undermined the country’s international reputation and development efforts”.
But that was then, when Bio was in opposition and desperately yearning for power. He has since had it and all appurtenances thereto as Lawyers would say – including having a firm leash over our National Treasury as President and Commander-in-Chief. He has tasted power and seen that it is good – “Nenghor Wallay” in fact – to the extent that there are growing fears now that if the President is not reined in, our National Treasury would soon be transformed into his personal property to be accessed and dispensed with as he decides to – unchallenged. And anyone attempting to unleash that grip thereover will incur his wrath.
So off goes Mrs. Lara Taylor-Pearce, most un-procedurally and unconstitutionally as has been overwhelmingly ascertained (Ref. Sec. 119 (9) and Sec. 137 (5), (6) and (7) of the National Constitution, leaving the general public to safely conclude that ours is a country degenerating into lawlessness and in which procedures are hardly respected and followed.
Ignore the ranting of Mr. Francis Gabbiddon on AYV Television. “If a salt has lost its flavor, wherewith shall it be salted? (Matt. 5:13)”.
A nation without law and order or adherence to either or both is at best a nation on a trajectory of anarchy, or at the worst as a failed state. God forbid the latter!! But equally to be treading a path of anarchy in administrative, fiscal and general state governance is no better option either as sooner rather than later Undertakers will begin to arrogate to themselves the functions of Engineers and vice-versa.
You only need to understand the lawlessness that has engulfed lands administration within the capital city to appreciate the impending risks that could be directly associated with the absence of Law and Order in society.
Perhaps the only groups to call the President to order that his actions are ultra-vires the provisions of the National Constitution and can even constitute grounds for his impeachment are the Anti-Corruption Commission and Civil Rights Groups cut for the purpose.
But could it be that all of them have condoned too much from this government since 2018 and have thus either become extensively compromised or intimidated into silence as lambs for the slaughter, or been recompensed with Jobs Placements, Projects Surveys and Public Relations Consultancies and perks too tempting to resist to begin to squeal?
A sample of early reactions from some notable Rights Groups speak to that fact as under:
– The S L Bar Association (as usual) expressed “deep concerns”, as they “await official confirmations of the Auditor General’s suspension”. That was hours after Mrs. Taylor –Pearce had confirmed it herself. Then they feverishly proceeded to “call on the competent authorities….” (Not the man who ordered the suspension!!) “….to fully respect the Constitution…..”
– Even though sounding like almost at the end of their tether (of patience with this administration), the Center for Accountability and Rule of Law (CARL) couldn’t help taking cover under existing the Constitutional lacunae: “That’s why we’ve always believed conclusion of the National Review processes is an imperative”. They were on the airwaves forty-eight hours later calling for “…….the reversal of the Presidential Suspension Order so that the President can start the whole process again”. “Starting the whole process” means regularizing the removal of Mrs. Lara Taylor-Pearce as Auditor General, who no matter what is irking their Party in governance and should still be removed.
– The Institute for governance Reforms are “appalled” by the recent decision of the “monster” they have been breeding over the past three and half years. They “…..urged government to disclose the reasons for suspension of the Auditor General (Not the overdue Audit Reports!!), and to speedily resolve the situation to reassure the people of their commitment to effective Public Financial Management….” (What they are looking for are just “reasons” or justifications, after which she should still be removed).
– Most ludicrous was the intervention of the all-Female “50-50 Group”. They “… reminded the government of its commitment to empowerment of women and girls and are awaiting the outcomes of the Panel to be set up by the Attorney General to investigate the Auditor General.
Two things emerged clearly from all above postulations:
1. Their consensual implicit acquiescence that Mrs. Lara Taylor-Pearce is already presumed as guilty as charged NOT for the offence of investigating “unprofessionalism and existing irregularity” within the Audit Services but for offences truncated to read “Professional Standards or lack thereof”. In other words she should be investigated at all cost. Do they all seem to know what we don’t know?
2. An implicit commitment to rustic traditional concepts that “Big Man nor for disgrace na public”, which (in my view) was the same conceptual basis that made the expulsion of former Vice President Samsumana from APC Party and the apology tendered by Lawyer Sengbeh-Marrah to the Judicial and Legal Council “legally expedient”. This is where the afterthought of Mr. Ibrahim Tommy of CARL for President Bio to “reverse the suspension of the Auditor General and start the whole process again” rings hollow.
Corruption has become an Art Form
In continuation of their typical SLPP blame-game escapade, Umaru Fofana also had to reminisce on Mrs. Lara Taylor-Pearce’s “….consistency of issuing hard-hitting Audit Reports about the handling of state funds by the former and present government….” A deliberate reference had to be made to the former government of course in the same way ACC Commissioner would “rub oil” on previous APC administration to mitigate the sins of this government.
But from interventions of regulatory and other oversight bodies both local and international, everyone knows that in the last three-plus years, profligacy and massive thievery under this present SLPP has transformed corruption into an art, so pervasive that it has warranted the suspension of the Auditor General for consistency and commitment to national service to wit: “Professional Standards or lack thereof”.
The paradox of it all is that in present day Sierra Leone, one can be investigated, reprimanded and even be sacked for upholding professionalism and moral rectitude, whilst accomplices to acts of murder are released prematurely and celebrated, leaving peaceful citizens pondering whether removing the death penalty and replacing it with assassinations was worth the while.
Mrs. Taylor-Pearce’s ordeal with this SLPP government started barely three months after their ascendancy, when she bravely and publicly challenged the quantum of moneys that the External Technical Auditors reported had gone missing under the APC, by countering that it was far less than was being touted by the then Chief Minister Prof. Davis Francis. And she has been walking the plank since. Her subsequent Government Audit Reports of Years 2018 (which the SLPP claimed was largely attributable to the APC) and 2019 (which they were unable to avoid direct responsibility for) were mere icings on the SLPP “Cake of Spite”.
The grudges continued with revelations of humongous corruption in the NACOVERC Audit Reports (which the present Attorney General almost stopped) and this government’s inability to have enacted into Law various amendments into the Financial Management Act that would have guaranteed non-accountable Imprests for the HE the President, his Vice President and the Hon. Speaker of Parliament, and also extensively diluted her powers as the Auditor General from exposing malfeasances within all sectors of government.
As things stand no one is in any position to guess what exactly are the issues contained in the overdue Year 2020 Auditor General’s Reports, so to avoid misgivings, wild speculations and allegations about this government attempts to suppress the massive corruption allegations contained therein and bordering on falsified invoices relating to whichever MDA, Parliament should as a matter of public interest do the needful by invoking Sec. 119 (4) to expedite its release, as paraphrasing President Bio in February 2015 that : “……..further delay to do so is causing so much adverse publicity that has undermined the country’s international reputation and development efforts”.
This is what you get when the laws of the land are applied selectively by a government that have lost all pretence of being government of the people by the people for the people. Mrs Taylor the Auditor General and her deputy Mr Momoh are the latest collateral victims of the inability of Bio to get a grip of what it means to be president of the Republic of Sierra Leone. One is left scratching their head, who is really running the office of the president of Sierra Leone? . Is it Maada Bio, the man that was elected by majority of Sierra Leoneans,on a false promise of making peoples lives better and creating opportunities for our young people, and bringing people together, or is it Mrs Fatima Bio, who as far as the electoral register were concerned, never put her name forward as an aspiring presidential candidate back in 2018, nevertheless, found herself as the unelected leader of Sierra Leone, that everyone has to listened to and obey, including Bio himself.Bio is just a shadow of himself.
Surely, there is nothing in the 1991 constitution that suggest that the spouse of the president can take over the reins of government by default. And unfortunately this is where our country found itself.”The Bio quagmire” They are like the Adam’s apple of Sierra Leone. You can’t swallow it, and you can’t spit it out. As a nation, we are chocking to death. Everything about this “Auditor Gate scandal” point to one thing, Bio is not running the show anymore. He is either unwilling to rein Mrs Bio’s interference of running his government, since clearly he is no longer in control, or too timid to tell her to take the back seat and act as a first lady. Bio should be aware, past history suggests, presidents that allows their spouses to run the presidency for them never end well. It always ends in tears. Former Ivorian leader Gbagbo’s wife, Simone Gbagbo, Goodluck Jonathan wife’s, Paticence Jonathan, Nancy Doe of Liberia, Egypt’s former president Suzanne Mubarak. What do they all have in common? They took over the running of the affairs of the state. Rendering their husbands president impotent. They literally became as spectators, instead of being in the dugout influencing events of national importance. In the case of Bio he has been relegated to the gates outside the stadium of politices.
Mrs Fatima Bio is now unofficially the new coach in town, deciding who should be in the field of play. So far Team Sierra Leone is on the loosing side to this bunch of amateur politicians that clearly have lost their sense of direction. The power and influence that she wields over her husband, is beyond comprehension. Mrs Bio is not Michelle Obama. I think despite being a first lady in the last three years, it seems to me, she still can’t believe her lucky stars, she found herself juggling being head of the Bio house hold and Sierra Leone head of state by default. The decision or her decision to suspend Mrs Lara Taylor, on the flimsy excuse of not doing her job properly and the most galling of all, the charges, brought against Mrs Taylor and her team are involved in nefarious activities that warrant an investigations by a Tribunal, whoes remits are yet to be outlined, and the outcome of anything that comes out of such investigations are all up in the air. So given what we know now, does this Tribunal have the power to exonerate or bring charges against Mrs Taylor and her co – accused.?Or are we just going witness an other show trial, the outcome of which has already been decided? There is so much knows unknowns, even a Hollywood script wirter will find it hard to come up with such a story line. It is hard to get your head around what is really going on. Bio have lost the plot.