Sierra Leone’s Parliament must stand for accountability and transparency

SierraeyeSalone: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 23 June 2024:

The suspension of Auditor General Lara Taylor-Pearce in November 2021 sent shockwaves throughout Sierra Leone.

Known for her integrity and professionalism, Taylor-Pearce’s suspension, along with her deputy Tamba Momoh, on allegations of ‘professional misconduct’ raised significant concerns about the independence of oversight institutions in our country.

In December 2021, a tribunal was established to investigate these allegations. Fast forward to June 2024, the tribunal has presented its report to the President, and although the contents of the report remain undisclosed, speculation abounds that it recommends Taylor-Pearce’s removal from office.

If true, this recommendation must now be approved by a two-thirds majority in Parliament as per Section 137(10) of our Constitution. This is a critical juncture for our democracy. Parliament faces a stark choice: to uphold the principles of accountability and transparency or to endorse a process shrouded in questionable independence.

An oversight institution like the Audit Service Sierra Leone must remain free from political interference to perform its duties effectively.

Her solicitors filed papers in the Supreme Court, seeking, among other things, the Court’s interpretation of sections 137(4), 137(5), and 137(6) of the Constitution of Sierra Leone, 1991. They questioned whether the Judicial and Legal Service Commission could recommend investigating the Plaintiff without prior complaints from a third party.

Additionally, they argued that the tribunal set up to investigate the Plaintiff was improperly constituted, as the appointed members did not meet the required qualifications of having been substantive Justices of the Supreme Court. They further asserted that the Judicial and Legal Service Commission violated due process and principles of natural justice by not informing the Plaintiff of the specific allegations and not involving her in the investigation process.

Despite several correspondences to Chief Justice Edwards, the matter was never listed for hearing. By letter dated November 18, 2021, our founder – Basita Michael, a former President of the Sierra Leone Bar Association resigned from the Judicial and Legal Service Commission, noting that “in the absence of the presentation of any allegation of misconduct to the Commission, it ought not to have agreed to the setting up of the tribunal.”

The charges against Taylor-Pearce and Momoh hinge on the alleged ‘breach of confidentiality and professional misconduct’ during a compliance audit of the Office of the President.

Specifically, the concern was that the Auditor General contacted hotels in Lebanon, South Africa, and The Gambia to verify receipts submitted for audit without the explicit approval of the Office of the President.

However, it is common practice for auditors to independently verify documents and information in the course of their duties. Requiring permission from the auditee – in this case, the Office of the President – would undermine the very essence of independent auditing.

Taylor-Pearce’s track record speaks for itself. She has consistently carried out her duties with the utmost professionalism, investigating even the highest offices without fear or favour.

The people of Sierra Leone know the truth. Now, the onus is on Parliament. As the representatives of the people, they must decide whether to support a questionable process or to stand with the people they serve.

Approving the removal of Lara Taylor-Pearce would not only be a disservice to her but also to the principles of accountability and transparency that are the bedrock of any functioning democracy.

Parliament must reject any recommendation for Taylor-Pearce’s removal. They must act as the true representatives of the people, upholding the integrity of oversight institutions, and ensuring that the fight against corruption and for good governance remains robust and untainted.

The people of Sierra Leone deserve nothing less.

Source: SierraeyeSalone

1 Comment

  1. Any time the issue of Lara Taylor-Pearce comes up I feel sick to the pit of my stomach, almost the same feeling that develops in me when I think of all the people Bio has killed.

    The only evil which Lara Taylor-Pearce seems to have committed was to be totally professional in her job by presenting government financial figures crudely, totally untampered with, for the benefit of the people of Sierra Leone, for them to see sources and applications of their money.

    Bio and his entourage were shaken by this, hence the suspension of the Auditor-general and the suppression of her report more than three years ago. The report would have revealed the criminality of Bio and his fellow gangsters, which contributed and continues to contribute to the suffering of the people.

    The current parliament is an extension of State House in the same way as the Judiciary has become an extension of the Executive. No justice should be expected for Lara Taylor-Pearce until Bio and his SLPP are removed from office by any means necessary.

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