Socialize

THAT COMMOMWEALTH PARLIAMENTAY ASSOCIATION SUBSCRIPTION GAFFE

October 9, 2019

By: Winstanley.R.Bankole. Johnson

Once again one of our worst secrets that ought otherwise to have been relegated to our national archive of administrative incompetence and best left unreported, was last week revealed to public domain, leaving the international community with no alternative but to take us to the cleaners. And the person who inexplicably made that inexpedient disclosure was Dr. Abass Chernoh Bundu, the Right Honourable Speaker, inarguably the most informed within the present Parliament to know the importance of our membership to all appendages of the Commonwealth (having himself served as a former Assistant secretary General in that parent organization) and the need to at all times ensure that our membership dues to each of them do not lapse. That it happened in fact was a serious administrative lapse, the kind of which could only occur out of two scenarios-:

  1. A lack of regular training in simple office management practices which over time could result in such lapses
  2. The mass irascible purging of experienced employees deemed not unsympathetic to any incoming political dispensation and their replacements – from  CEOs right down to Janitors – by novices who invariably spend their first few months asking for directions about their new environment including locations of the restrooms, let alone the files for serious counterparties. This latter trend would seem likely to continue in the years ahead.

Reactions of our Hon. MPs to that gaffe were unanimous. They believed it brought shame to our country. In fact Hon. I.B Kargbo concluded that such an oversight “has sent a bad signal about our country to the international community”. Hon. Tawa Conteh on the other hand was so livid and asserted that notwithstanding huge budgetary provisions to Parliament by the Finance Ministry including over Le2billion for sustenance or per diem expenses plus another Le1billion for Travel Expense, Parliament could omit or forget to meet their membership dues to the CPA.

Incidentally even though Hon Tawa Conteh did not mention the period for which the total amount exceeding Le3billion was disbursed, nor their other mouth-watering Parliamentary emoluments, he left tongues wagging about why the next parliamentary turnover should not be higher than in 2017, so as to allow other citizens the opportunity to also represent their Constituencies for even just five straight years and (irrespective of the fact they have never been employed before), also become qualified for an equally mouth-watering pension scheme now said to exceed Le7million for life – per one former MP.

“Who’s Who?”

In the olden days when “Civics” was a prerequisite subject in all Primary Schools’ curriculum, the then popular tabloid “The Daily Mail” would periodically publish articles under the caption: “WHO’S WHO”. Those periodicals would include photos of prominent citizens in local and central government administrations across the political divide countrywide, with short sub-titles indicating where they resided and worked or what their roles were in the society. In fact that was how we got to know names like Samuel Adjaie Crowther, P.C Bai Farama Tass the 2nd, P.C Raymond Brima Sesse Koker, Alieu Duasi Wurie, P.C Bai Koblo Quee etc even long before we personally came into contact with some of them.

In all up to a hundred names and pictures would be mentioned, including other such prominent ones like Madam Regina Tucker-James; R.J.Dworzack; J.E.H M’Bayo; William F. Conton; Siaka Probyn Stevens (former Prime Minister and first Executive President) P.C. Abu Baimba and P.C. Taplima N’Gobeh (both of who were incidentally translated in the same motor accident); Mohamed Sanusi Mustapha; Marcus Grant; Percy R. Davies (later former Speaker of Parliament); P.C. Madam Honoria Bailor-Caulker; Rev. Paul Dunbar; Columbus Thompson; P.C.Bai Sebora Kamal; Christo Davies; P.C. Songu-M’Briwa; Esther Lillian Coker; Magistrates Mahoney and Banja Tejan-Sie (the latter later Sir and former Governor General) Kandeh Bureh; Madam Zainabu Kamara; P.C Adikali Modu; Tommy F Hope, Madam Constance Cummings-John; P.C. Madam Ella Koblo-Gulama; Christopher E. Okoro Cole (later Chief Justice and First Ceremonial President of Sierra Leone); Rev. Lamina Sankoh; Maigore-Kallon; R.G.Ojumiri King; Dr. John Karefa-Smart; Dr. Peter L Tucker; George Sulaiman Panda; Madam Marie Nelson; Dr. Sarif Easmon; Alderman Abdul Fattah Rahman (former Mayor of Freetown); Madam Nancy Steele; Albert Michael Margai (later knighted Sir and our second Prime Minister); Berthan Macauley (Q.C); John H. Smythe (QC) and Sheik Batul Daramy to name just a few. This list is not exhaustive and far less than the 100 stated, so must apologize here and now for having left out anyone’s illustrious genealogical grandparents names out.   Do forgive me.

Those periodicals would also occasionally reference stories and dates of Sierra Leone’s affiliations to several global organizations which we were obliged to rote learn with pride and could remember to this day. For example, that-:

  • Sierra Leone became the 100th member of the United Nations on 27th September 1961 with Ambassador Gershon Collier as our first Permanent Representative.
  • That our present poor Human Rights record aside, we were also the 100th Signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
  • We also obtained membership to the Commonwealth of Nations on 27th April, 1961 under the first Premiership of Sir. Milton Augustus Strieby Margai.

Reciting those memorable names and dates was a musically feel-good experience.

Unblemished

In those days (unlike now), one’s prominence or recognition as an icon or within the corridors of power depended not on which tribe or region one came from, nor to which political party they belonged. Rewards were based purely on merit and ability, and the parameters for consideration – including the upholding an unblemished character in public offices – were quite rigid too.  In those days up to 70% of Civil Servants within the structure rarely went beyond Junior Cambridge Class (Form 3), but they were groomed into seasoned professionals through rigid career paths, interspersed with intensive trainings in governance at then Training and Recruitment Office (later changed to the Civil Service Training College and relocated to Tower Hill) where doyens like A.J Mommoh, Peter Dimoh, John Tucker and J.M Legg would see them through a grueling rite of passage that left them fully capacitated for higher responsibilities of even up to the rank of Permanent Secretaries.

There were clear evidences of much leaner but more efficient top-down layers of management through which clearly defined responsibilities were cascaded throughout particular departments to ensure an attainment of their overall corporate objectives to avoid embarrassing lapses or omissions such as culminated in the forgetfulness or oversight by our Parliament to meet its membership subscription obligations to the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. And when you compare the present sophisticated real-time working environments of this generation to those days when the fastest means of communication was by Telex with all its inhibitions for sending bulky attachments, you cannot but pray for the continued repose of the souls of those who had sacrificed so much for so little in return.

Vicarious

These days the more letters accompanying the names of those lucky and connected enough to gain employment in the MDAs under a political dispensation of their membership, the more mediocre and less competent or more inept their output and performance. How else would anyone explain away a national Parliament’s inability or forgetfulness or oversight to pay its membership dues to the CPA beyond administrative ineptitude? But even though it was the Hon. Speaker that revealed the gaffe, it doesn’t mean he should be directly blamed for it, beyond vicarious limits because he is the overall head of that institution. Parliament has a Secretariat headed by the Hon. Clerk, among whose key deliverables is to ensure that proper diaries are maintained for all recurrent expense streams including dues to membership organizations and associations and of course for all utilities as well, in the same way they are maintained in modern corporate organizations.

Opposition

I have taken an interest in this story because it resonated with my early experiences as Mayor when the Freetown City Council (FCC) found itself the same fate of non-participation on account of failure to keep its membership to the Commonwealth Local Government Forum (CLGF) current. Sierra Leoneans always take pride in their memberships to multiple organizations, but are rarely committed to honouring their financial obligations to such bodies. All we seem to care about are the perks if any, accompanying those membership status, especially if travel expense are prepaid. So upon assuming office after a thirty-two year (32) lull of Local Council (Municipal) governance, I realized the Freetown City Council could not participate in the pending CLGF conference of 2005 (?) because our annual subscriptions had been in arrears for that long (32 years).  As an “opposition” Party-led Council (as it was unfortunately classified) and being cash-strapped, I knew full well that the last thing the Local Government Minister then would support is my comfort. S0 I negotiated cancellations of all but about two years membership arrears with the then CLGF Chairman Carl Wright which I settled out of pocket. That was what has qualified us (and this country) for election to the Board of CLGF (twice) in Alternate Director status since.

Red Card

Though we are only hearing about it only now with particular reference to the CPA, I am sure this is not the very first time our country is receiving a self-inflicted “Red Card” on account of its failure to live up to our membership obligations to a global organization, considering several time lapses occasioned by military interregna during which periods our membership to either the parent Commonwealth Organization or the CPA and or the FCC has been suspended. And there could very well be other global organizations to which our membership dues have also long lapsed and awaiting updates of what presumably ought to be pittance but could have now accrued into substantial arrears. So even though it is our Parliament that is under the radar, other MDAs may wish to also review their membership status with other global organizations to avoid suffering the same fate as our Parliament. Like the Hon. I B Kargbo inferred, the shame on our country could impact in two ways: “Reputationally”, in addition to denying our Parliamentarians immense opportunities for capacity enhancements and excellent international networking.