Lawrence Williams: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 18 October 2022:
The Tribunal set up by President Bio to investigate the country’s Auditor-General and her deputy, following their suspension last November resumed yesterday after a lengthy adjournment.
In the proceedings, the matter of contention between the State and lawyers for the defendants was whether the Tribunal has or lacks jurisdiction to hear and determine the facts of the allegations made against Lara Taylor Pearce and her deputy, Tamba Momoh.
The two sides have been at odds regarding this issue. The State argues that the Tribunal was duly constituted and has the competent jurisdiction while the defendants’ lawyers counter with case laws, constitutional provisions, and statutory legal provisions.
Lawyer Pa Momoh Fofanah representing Tamba Momoh raised strong jurisdictional objections contained in an application by Notice of Motion dated 6th June 2022. The application was supported by an affidavit, as well as exhibits of correspondences from State House, the Audit Service Sierra Leone (ASSL), and the Ombudsman’s conclusions regarding Tamba Momoh’s complaints of maladministration against the ASSL.
He submitted that the defendant was appointed by the ASSL Board pursuant to Section 3 of the ASSL Act of 2014. Furthermore, lawyer Momoh referred to provisions in the ASSL Employees Handbook and Terms of Reference. These provisions require the Board to investigate, discipline, suspend or remove any employee found wanting for infractions listed therein.
He argued that the functions of the Board are relevant to Tamba Momoh’s present circumstances and advanced plausible reasons as to why the statutory functions of the ASSL Board cannot be revoked or usurped by any other authority, not least the Tribunal.
State Counsel from the Office of the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Osman Kanu, files an affidavit opposing the papers already filed by lawyer Fofana and argues, though less convincingly, that nothing in the latter’s documents strips the Tribunal of its jurisdiction to hear and determine the case.
Lawyer Momoh replied that the State has failed to adequately address the objections raised. According to him, the establishment of the Tribunal is based on specific constitutional and statutory directions that are reinforced in the Practice Directions of the Tribunal.
At some point during the proceedings, Mr. Lahai M. Farma, a member of the panel as well as a government legal consultant in the Attorney-General’s office, made some remarks which lawyer Momoh Fofana construed to be provocatively prejudiced against his application. He also retorted.
However, Justice Nyawo Finda Matturi-Jones, chair of the panel was swift to dismiss Farma’s statements as purely subjective and unrepresentative of the objective consideration of the panel. She then advised counsel to treat them as such. According to her, the panel will rule on the applications at its next sitting.
Taking the cue from counsel Fofana, the defence attorney for Lara Taylor Pearce, Roland Wright Esq., also indicated to the panel that he has some jurisdictional objections to raise at the next adjourned date.
“While some jurisdictional objections would require constitutional interpretation, others might call for personal introspection,” he pointed out to the panel.
He stated that objections that would require constitutional interpretation invariably impose a duty on the panel to go to the Supreme Court for construal. Furthermore, lawyer Wright indicated to the panel that he may file an application for recusal of some members of the panel who are deemed unqualified and whose appointment to sit on the panel was unconstitutional.
Wright had earlier filed an Originating Notice of Motion to the Supreme Court on 21 December 2022 requesting for the constitutional interpretation of sections 119, 122, 124, 125, and 137 and other provisions that apply to the office of the Auditor-General of Sierra Leone. This application however did not see the light of day.
The panel indicated that those objections bordering on constitutional interpretation may not be entertained. However, Wright was adamant that under the present circumstances the panel is obligated to seek the leave of the apex court for redress.
Justice Jones then remarked that: “We will cross each bridge when we get to it.” She said notice of the next adjourned date will be communicated to both parties in due time.
Maada Bio, his government and hangers-on do not believe in procedure. The law means nothing to them, hence the abolition of the death penalty. Maada Bio believes that the procedures leading to the actual hanging of condemned prisoners is too long, it’s far easier and quicker to just send in his soldiers and thugs to do the job. Remember Makeni? Remember Pademba Road Prison? Remember Tombo? Remember Kenema when an only child was killed? Remember Freetown recently?
The preamble is an effort to explain the illegal suspension of two top civil servant – Auditor-General Lara Taylor-Pearce and her deputy. If Maada Bio can be such a calculating cold-blooded killer, unlawfully suspending a professionally-minded Auditor-General means nothing to him.
In a real democracy Bio would be sued for human rights abuse and forced to look up the word suspension in a basic dictionary. And assuming that he does grasp the meaning he should pay the Auditor-General and her deputy their full salary for the entire time that they have been on suspension because they have not been dismissed . To this should be added punitive damages for the mental anguish and humiliation brought on by Bio’s actions. Lawyers should be ready to fighting for this both nationally and internationally.
Given what we know about the one directionless Bio government that is knee-deep in corruption scandals , and has become a daily diet for Sierra Leoean public consumption , it is bit rich coming from Bio to set up a tribunal to look at the workings of the former Auditor General Ms Lara Pearce -Taylor and others who worked with her , that were only doing their job as mandated and covered by the Audit Service Sierra Leone , national and regulatory framework which includes the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone Audit service Act 2014 and the Audit service Act of 1998.The Auditor General’s mandate is clearly defined by these Acts of the Sierra Leone parliament which is the elected representative of majority of the people of Sierra Leone .By setting up this tribunal , Bio have once again demonstrated his total disregard for the laws of the land, and quite literally ripped off our constitutional arrangements in our faces and undermined the very workings of the work of the auditor General and any future workings of an independent Auditor General.
What this tribunal meant is to removed that independence nature of the Auditor General or put the fear of God on their workings and created a dependency ethics culture for whoever is appointed on that role in the future. You work at the behest of the president not what they are mandated to do independently without any political interference .Bio’s diabolical actions will have a lasting impact in the fight against the cancer of corruption in Sierra leone. The constitution mandate the Auditor General :”As the supreme Audit institution for Sierra Leone to promotes accountability and good governance .The Auditor General is mandated to carry out audits on the economic efficiency and effectiveness with which government entities use their resources in carrying out their responsibilities .The Auditor General is the independent auditor reporting to parliament .Section 119 of the 1991 constitution empowers the Auditor to audit the public accounts of Sierra Leone and all public offices including the courts , the central and local governments.” Now we all know why Bio acted the way he did .
Ms Lara Pearce -Talyor known for her independent mindedness , and working for the national interest , regardless of which party is in power APC/SLPP or any state institutions ,with no prisoners taken have always carried her work diligently , transparently and independently with one thing in mind to safeguard the public finances.And when it comes to Bio she found herself swimming against the SLPP sharks led by Bio , laying in ambush waiting to strike at any moment they felt their tail have being wag. And that is exactly what this so called tribunal is all about .And the irony of it all Bio promised to fight corruption , but he was also honest to tell us corruption will fight back .I think he have honored the latter than the former .what a load of hogwash .