My thoughts on the Auditor General Lara Taylor-Pearce saga

Charles Margai Esq: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 17 November 2021:

By letter dated 8th November, 2021, the Deputy Minister of Justice, Mr. Umaru Napoleon Koroma addressed a letter to the Hon. Chief Justice, triggering the commencement of investigations into the conduct of Mrs. Lara Taylor Pearce and her deputy, Mr. Tamba Momoh, Auditor-General and Deputy Auditor-General respectively, concerning as he put it, to address, “several allegations in form of complaints lodged to His Excellency, the President, amounting to misconduct OR lack of professional performance while in office”. (Photo above – Charles Margai Esq.)

The letter is predicated on Section 119(9) of the Constitution of Sierra Leone Act No.6 of 1991 and Section 137(5) of the said Constitution.

Section 119(9) of Act No.6 of 1991 (the Constitution of Sierra Leone) provides: “The provisions of Section 137 of this Constitution, relating to the removal of a Judge of the Superior Court of Judicature other than the Chief Justice, from office, shall apply to the Auditor-General.”

Section 137(5) of Act No.6 of 1991 which is the applicable subsection and provides: “If the Judicial and Legal Service Commission represents to the President that the question of removing a Judge of the Superior Court of Judicature, other than the Chief Justice, under subsection (4) ought to be investigated then –

(a) the President, acting in consultation with the Judicial and Legal Service Commission, shall appoint a tribunal which shall consist of a Chairman and two other members, all of whom shall be persons qualified to hold or have held office as a Justice of the Supreme Court; and

(b) the tribunal appointed under paragraph (a) shall enquire into the matter and report on the facts thereof and findings thereon to the President and recommend to the President whether the Judge ought to be removed from office under the subsection”.

The reason why the Judicial and Legal Service Commission has a role to play in the removal of Judges, is because the Judicial and Legal Service Commission is by virtue of Section 135(1) and (2) of Act No.6 of 1991, involved in the appointments of all Judges including the Chief Justice.

Reference to the Judicial Service Commission in Section 119(9) of Act No.6 of 1991, on the removal from office of the Auditor-General is in my opinion misplaced; as the Judicial and Legal Service Commission is not a player in the appointment of the Auditor-General. (I think the drafters of the Constitution should have added after “Auditor-General” in Section 119(9) of Act No.6 of 1991, the words – “as may be applicable”.

The Deputy Minister of Justice, which title I venture to say, has no constitutional support, realizing the inapplicability of Section 119(9) of Act No.6 of 1991, for reasons above proffered, disingenuously resorted to writing to the Hon. Chief Justice in his capacity as chairman, Judicial Service Commission, as a prelude to commencing investigations into the conduct of the Auditor-General and her deputy.

Has the Deputy Minister of Justice, authority to act as he did? The answer is NO!

(a) Section 64(1) of Act No.6 of 1991, established the office of Attorney-General and Minister of Justice (conjunctive).
(b) Section 64(2) states that the holder of such office shall come from among persons qualified to hold office as a Justice of the Supreme Court; meaning as per Section 135(3) of Act No.6 of 1991, from among persons who have practised as counsel OR be entitled to practise as such for not less than twenty years.

The question is:

(a) does the Constitution of Sierra Leone, Act No.6 of 1991, provide for separate offices of Attorney-General AND that of Minister of Justice (Disjunctive)? The answer is NO!

(b) who has the right to disjunct Section 64(1) of Act No.6 of 1991? It is the House of Parliament.

(c) is the current designate of Deputy Minister of Justice appropriate constitutionally? The answer is NO!

(d) does the current holder of the purported office of Deputy Justice Minister meet the threshold set out in Section 35(3) of Act No.6 of 1991? The answer is NO!

What then is the effect of the letter addressed to the Hon. Chief Justice dated 8th November, 2021, by Umaru Napoleon Koroma, Deputy Minister of Justice? Answer: It is a nonstarter, amounting to nothing.

Does the above letter support the suspension by Mr. President of the Auditor-General and her deputy? Answer: At all not!

The President’s action is precipitous and a breach of his constitutional obligation (reference: second schedule, president’s Oath “I … do hereby (in the name of God swear) (solemnly affirm) that I will at all times well and truly discharge the duties of the office of the President of the Republic of Sierra Leone according to law, that I will preserve, support, uphold, maintain and defend the Constitution of the Republic of Sierra Leone as by law established, and that I will do right to all manner of people according to law, without fear or favour, affection or ill-will. So help me God”!

The President’s suspension of the Auditor-General and her Deputy, should have suffixed and not prefixed a referral of their removal from office to a tribunal. (See Section 137(6) of Act No.6 of 1991).

I say ‘precipitously’ because even if Section 137(5) were applicable, (which is not the case), the President’s suspension of the Auditor-General and her Deputy should have suffixed and not prefixed a referral of their removal from office to a tribunal. (See Section 137(6) of Act No.6 of 1991, which provides:- “where the question of removing a Judge of the superior court of Judicature from office has been referred to a tribunal under Subsection (5), the President may suspend the Judge from performing the functions of his office an any such suspension may at any time be revoked by the president, and shall in any case cease to have effect if the tribunal recommends to the President that the Judge shall not be removed from office.”

Are there attendant consequences when a president breaches provisions of the constitution? Answer: see Section 51 of the Constitution of Sierra Leone Act No.6 of 1991 – titled misconduct by President.

13 Comments

  1. Charles Margai, a seasoned lawyer, has framed legalistically with all the relevant knowledge and requisite technical lexicon available to him, what many of us here have stated rather lamely, not to say unsophisticatedly. One key point Charles Margai makes is that in suspending the Auditor General and her deputy rather hastily, Bio may have ridden roughshod over the due process required in reaching that decision. He may have therefore overreached his presidential authority, thus laying himself open possibly to accusations of and prosecution for doing violence to the fundamental laws of our land enshrined in our Constitution.

    The problem however is this: if there is theoretically or poetically a constitutional provision for removing a president guilty of overstepping his authority (Charles Margai’s closing remarks in fact point emphatically to that provision), how do we then as a country move from the realm of theory or poetry to the domain of practice, prose or action? Is our legal and judicial system robust and independent enough to withstand the test of holding to account an executive authority that is fast transforming itself and monstrously so into an autarchy? Can the theory or poetry of the separation of powers, of the system of checks and balances essential to the functioning of a healthy and self-respecting democracy be put into meaningful practice in Bio’s den of corruption and of growing despotism called Sierra Leone?

    Or is a military coup inevitable, being as it were our only hope of starting all over again that seemingly arduous and endlesss task of transforming our country into a normal, viable, genuinely democratic state? If the answer to this question is yes, then I truly fear for our country. For it means that as far as our present and indeed possible futures are concerned, the beauutyful ones are, to rephrase that memorable title of the Ghanaian novelist Ayi Kwei Armah’s magnum opus, yet if ever to be born.

  2. Hahaha, truth to be told, i sometimes couldn’t help but crack a laughter whenever i read through some of the commentary made by delusional PAOPA supporters. True. Some of these folks have become so enmeshed into partisan politics, with a totally brainwashed mentally, common sense and logic seems to be a foreign concepts. To these folks, politics trumps above all things, even if issues of national concerns benefits them or not, all that matters is their political masters are protected.

    In what rational individuals will usually applaud for a job well done, here we have diehard delusional PAOPA shellacking the Auditor General for simply pursuing diligence. A crooked president and his gang of thieves have submitted falsified hotel vouchers and receipts. Professional auditing norms dictates that, documents submitted for expenses validation be crosscheck for veracity. Ironically, the country ‘image cleansing’ squad are against such conduct. To them all corruption and mischievous acts by our politicians MUST be hidden from the public. When you see or come across a crime being committed, walk as fast as you could to clear the scene, and DON’T you dear say a word to the public. Folks this is the Sierra Leone our PAOPA masters want our children to inherit.

    Here we are again, the erudite lawyer Charles Margai, one of the most renown constitutional lawyer in our nation and the subregion, being hammer with vitriol for simply writing a piece, interpreting the dictates of our constitution. A man with impeccable judiciary record, unwavering in maintaining standards, and bowing to no one, including the previous EBK regime, whom he humiliated and defeated while representing former vice president Sam Samunna after his unconstitutional sacking. Again, the only crime here by the erudite lawyer Margai is following the dictates of his professional career and saying the truth. As usual, delusional PAOPA supporters have opted for the gutter approach against his personality, making a mockery of themselves in the public.

  3. Med Sillah, I meant to say “prancing around “, not “practicing around”. Let me ride on this second piece and say this : Some members of this forum seem to be making comments without reading and thoroughly understanding Charles Margai’s constitutionally based argument; in other words their comments are borne by emotions. Mr Margai is simply saying that the suspension of Lara Taylor-Pearce and her deputy did not follow constitutional procedure: “The President’s suspension of the Auditor-General and her deputy should have suffixed and not prefixed a referral of their removal from office to a tribunal “. What could be more clear than this?

    It was/is a loss to the nation that Maada Bio removed Mr Margai from being Attorney-General soon after appointing him. He (Mr Margai) would most definitely have been the checks and balances within the administration to not only prevent but to mitigate the excesses of Bio, including political violence, headed by the likes of Lawrence Lima. As things have turned out, Bio is surrounded by toadies.

  4. “Some men are wise some otherwise”. Perhaps this was some of the reasons why Charles Margai Esq served a very short term in office as Attorney General and Minister of Justice in Sierra Leone. Thank you sir, H.E Dr. Julius Maada Bio for using such a wisdom to make that decision earlier otherwise!

    This issue doesn’t call for political scores. But rather setting up a space for us to know what it means by fighting corruption in all work places. Afterwards, when the audit report were published in the past governments what action were taken? Isn’t it now that people of Sierra Leone can be proud to speak loudly about audit services work? Who made that to happen except His Excellency Dr. Julius Maada Bio. Why querying the appointment of Deputy Minister of Justice now? Please allow peace to reign.

  5. Leo Africanous, Try to remember correctly before invalidating my statement. I am always open to corrections but it has to be based on facts .not assumptions.

    • Indeed, Francis Gabbidon was a contender for the 1986 parliamentary election, in Mountain Rural District, under the then A.P.C of Joseph Saidu Momoh. He lost to Wiltshire Johnson allegedly due to a fluke.

  6. Med Sillah, your single paragraph submission takes the biscuit. Those who hate Mr Margai should challenge him technically and stop prancing around with demented feelings. The constitution is not about feelings but what it contains – which should be followed to the letter.

  7. Brilliant piece by one of Sierra Leone’s finest legal minds. He has carefully laid out the law and how it applies in this case. A man who says it as he sees it, maintaining his integrity over the years. These are the people whose legal opinions matter not those whose reputation are questionable and covicted fraudsters.

  8. If I seem to remember correctly, Mr Gabbidon was a contender for parliament in the 80’s, therefore, Alusine Fallay’s statement is invalid. Now for Charles Margai’s analysis, the constitution does seem to have a provision for removing the Auditor General subject to a recommendation being made by the relevant committee. However, the committee, not the minister should propose the inquiry.

    This is all semantics. The basis for a constitution is the rule of law and separation of powers. Sierra Leone is beyond hope as these thieves, who disguise themselves as tribalists, ruin the nation. Taylor-Pierce should consider herself lucky that she has not been murdered.

    This is a case of the emperor’s new clothes. Everyone knows that Maada is a thief and a traitor as well, ask Valentine Strasser. People must be mad, if they think someone who betrayed his comrades in arms has a shred of integrity.

  9. This unhinged actions of the president, and his sidekick Mr Umaru Napoleon the deputy justice minister, is a clear manifestation they are both operating outside the laws of the land, as is clearly written in our 1991 constitutional arrangements. And for whatever took possession of their brains, they decided to suspend Mrs Lara Taylor our Auditor General and her deputy Mr Tamba Momoh on flimsy excuses most be challenged . The court of public opinion is firmly on the side of Mrs Taylor’s not Bio. Lawyer Margai have debunked their lies. Their actions are illegal, and violate the oath of office of the presidency. We all know Bio’s actions has nothing to do with any malpractices the two are stand accused of whilst doing their jobs,. which so far they’ve managed to do with impeccable standards, for which they are universally acknowledged over the years to have done, without any fear or favours,. But his action should be seen more in the context of about suppressing the audit reports that was due out in the next few weeks.

    As far as Bio was concerned, prevention is better than cure . We all know Mrs Taylor and her team have been using the same yard stick to ask the difficult questions from our public officials, both APC /SLPP or in some instances civil servants that are found to be wanting. Bio and his misinformed deputy Minister Mr Napoleon, who by the look of it is not a constitutional expert by any stretch of the imagination, have realised this time they have bitten more than they can chew.

    If the universal condemnations they received for the sacking of Mrs Taylor, both in Sierra Leone and abroad is anything to go by, I suspect privately they most admit this time they’ve overstep the mark. But because we are dealing with people that are full of egos, and Bio, the president is literally the door mat at home, he needs to demonstrate to Mrs Fatima Bio that he is a man not a mouse. Or how well does one explain Bio’s actions since taking office? Internationally he talks of promoting girls education, and urged them to librate themselves from the tyranny of the misogynist societies we have in Sierra Leone, by aiming for the skies, at the sametime, Bio throughout his stewardship, have been fighting a shadow war with the most powerful women our country have produced. Dr Blyden, Mayor Akin Sawyer, and now Mrs lara Taylor. Somethings doesn’t add up. Unfortunately most of our young women and girls will now think twice to pursue careers in public services. Thanks Bio.

  10. A brilliant piece of legal discussion that leaves more questions than answers to the layman. For example if the Judicial and Legal Service Commission is not a player in the appointment of the Auditor-General, who then has the constitutional authority to suspend, dismissed or appoint the Auditor General?

    Many other legal minds including the former head of the bar association Ms Basita Micheal had posited that the Judicial and Legal Service Commission should have been informed first before suspending the Auditor General and her deputy. Was that a wrong position taken by madam Michael?

    If Section 119(9) of the Constitution of Sierra Leone Act No.6 of 1991 and Section 137(5) of the said Constitution does not covers the position of the Auditor General, is it right for her to be subjected to a Judicial Tribunal? Why not suspend and investigate her as prescribed for by other civil servants? But is the AG a civil servant?

    More questions and answers indeed from this article.

  11. The only credible analysis I have listened to came from one of the MOST RESPECTED LAW PROFESSOR of our time Mr. Francis Gabidon. President Bio has made Charles Margai who was his opponent in the 2018 presidential elections the shortest serving Attorney General in history. Probably it will be in the Guinness Book of Records. Charles Margai is now trying to accomplish what he failed to do at the ballot box. What a sad case. Please listen to the YouTube video of AYV on Sunday 14 Nov, 2021. Mr. Gabidon is not and will never be a politician but he is a LAW GENIUS.

    • Alusine Fallay, would you ever forgive the boss that fired you after barely being on the job for three months? If you would, I definitely would not. Lawyer Charles Margai is a brilliant legal mind. But I don’t think his inherent biases against the SLPP and President Julius Bio would allow him to make an unbiased assessment of the case against the Auditor General.

      The tribunal that Mrs. Lara Taylor-Pearce will be appearing before has already been put together. Let’s see if she will come out smelling like roses. Mrs. Taylor-Pearce may well be a hardworking and diligent Auditor-General. But when a top civil servant allows her office to be weaponized against the presidency of the country, the integrity of that office takes a big hit. There is no denying the fact that the opposition after being humiliated in a number of bye elections by the ruling party has been looking at the Auditor General’s office as the last hope to get back at the president. Thus, the opposition has to be happy at seeing the Auditor General’s office adopting the modus operandi of calling hotels all over the world to verify presidential party receipts and leaking confidential information to opposition news outlets with the aim of embarrassing the president..

      Truth is, with less than two years to General elections, the opposition is scared. Three years have been wasted on ‘mammy cusses’, obstruction, and fanning the embers of ethnic hatred. All have failed and so has the hope that there will be a popular national revulsion against the presidency. Much to the frustration of the desperate forces, the cool and calculated President Bio has kept winning international awards for his stewardship while working hard at home to improve the economy and promote national security.. And if the recent elections in Kono are anything to go by, the opposition is headed for a humiliating defeat in 2023.. The results were so bad for the APC that they were even trounced by the dreaded RUFP in a few wards. What all of this tells us is that no one can put a good man down.

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