March 30, 2015 By Jariatu S. Bangura
Members of the Information and Communications Committee in Parliament yesterday expressed their frustration over the no-show of Minister of Information and Communications, his deputy and Permanent Secretary after an invitation had been sent to them earlier.
Chairman of the committee, Hon. Binneh Bangura, said although the meeting was for “familiarisation”, the officials were still expected to attend as there are a lot of issues affecting the communications department and service providers across the country.
He said as a supervising ministry they should be very responsible as their presence in the meeting would have helped to address issues raised by members.
“It has been the practice for senior officials to be present in committee hearings or that of the whole House, but we will accept this excuse given. If in subsequent meetings the minister or his deputy did not show up, serious actions will be taken and we will not want that to happen,” he said.
He added: “We will continue to work with the ministry in terms of challenges that may come that we are needed to either assist or engage in other ways. Also, sometimes we want firsthand information that are of concern in the ministry for which we will have to come to your office for, and we are not happy about their absence.”
Hon. Bangura said the committee members hope the minister and his deputy are not taking Parliament for granted and that should they fail to show up again, “We will be left with no option but to act accordingly as we are mandated by our Parliamentary Standing Orders regardless of the political affiliation they might have and we don’t want to take that path”.
However, acting Permanent Secretary and Deputy Secretary in the ministry, James Freeman, apologised to members on behalf of his bosses that the minister was at State House attending a Cabinet meeting, while the Permanent Secretary is seriously ill. He promised to convey all the issues raised by members to his bosses.
Meanwhile, members of the committee raised concern about the present situation of the fiber optic as the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC) should have been a beneficiary of the much vaunted project.
They also raised concern about internal divisions at the National Telecommunications Commission, headed by Mr. Momoh Konteh, which according to them the minister should help mediate before it gets to the committee.