September 11, 2020
By Jariatu S. Bangura
The ruling Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) Member of Parliament representing Constituency 132, Western Area Urban, Hon. Ibrahim Tawa Conteh, yesterday resigned as Chairman of the Committee on Transparency and Accountability, after a heated debated between him and the Minister of Information and Communications, Mohamed Rahman Swaray,in regards to the proposed unbundling of the Sierra Leone Cable Network (SALCAB).
“Considering the job that I have accepted when I was approved in the chamber of Parliament, I realised that there was going to be a tough task and that much is expected from me both in Parliament and the people of this country. When I subscribed to the oath as MP on the 25th April, 2018, I knew I am going to take up a task and knew I am going to enter into a daunting test. Today is not different, today is another day that my result has been tested. Today is another day that Sierra Leone comes first and it is bigger than any other person. On that note, I want to sadly announce my resignation as Chairman of the Transparency and Accountability Committee, effectively, immediately,” he said.
Before the commencement of the committee sittings yesterday at 11am, a stand down was made for over ten minutes but sitting resumed at 11: 30.
The heated debate ensued after the Minister was asked to explain to MPs as to which information should be trusted, because the President had told Parliament in 2019 that SALCAB was making huge profit, while a cabinet conclusion had stated otherwise-that SALCAB was not making profit hence the minister should unbundle the Agency.
The Minister of Information and some members of the committee, including the Chairman (Hon. Tawa), were invited to a closed door meeting by the leadership of Parliament for reason best known to them, and after some deliberations, they came back to Committee Room 1.
Hon. Tawa stated that the committee invited the Director of the National Telecommunications Commission (NATCOM) and Director of Engineering at SALCAB for MPS to know what exactly had happened between them as they are under the purview of the Ministry of Information.
Earlier, Hon. Tawa welcomed both the ministry and SALCAB,stating the matter they were about to discuss had attracted the attention of the public, and that they wanted to know what the nation stands to gain and the situation the country would be in once SALCAB is unbundled.
He emphasised that they were in Parliament to perform their oversight function as mandated by the national constitution and also for MDAs to account for monies received.
“A lot has been said about the unbundling and we need to get thorough overview of what is happening. We are not here to embarrass anybody and parliament needs to get the real system,” he emphasised.
Hon. Tawa stated that there was inconsistency between the information provided by the President to Parliament during his address in the third session, and that of the Minister of Information and Communications.
He said the Minister told the committee that the World Bank provided a loan to SALCAB which is yet to be paid, charging that the minister was not ready to exactly tell the committee the information they needed.
However, Minister of Information and Communications, Mohamed Rahman Swaray said at the seventh meeting of cabinet, they agreed that SACAB should be unbundled since the entity was not making profit as expected.
He said SALCAB was not been targeted but rather they wanted to continue the reform process as it will help the people of Sierra Leone to win at the end of the day.
He said that the conclusion of cabinet was that the ministry should ensure that the needful be done by making sure that the conclusion be implemented.
“We want to reform SALCAB as it will benefit the people and I am not doing it on a personal basis but rather to improve competitive access to that of international level. We will continue to meet or engage all stakeholders so that we will win together. I have a cabinet conclusion to implement. I have great respect for you as lawmakers and I am not going beyond this,” he said.
A member of the committee, Hon. Abdul Karim Kamara, said Parliament had made understand that ministries were striping off agencies established by the House, a situation he said will not augur well for the nation.
He said the information brought before the house by the minister was completely at variance with what the President had told Parliament about SALCAB.