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As MPs conclude debate on presidential speech…

June 4, 2018

By Jariatu Bangura

Dr. Yumkella: Leader of NGC in Parliament

The Leader of the National Grand Coalition (NGC) in Parliament last Friday called on his colleague Members of Parliament not to be partisan when discussing national issues.

While contributing to the final debate on the maiden speech delivered by President Julius Maada Bio during the State Opening of Parliament, Hon. Dr. Kandeh Kolleh Yumkella of Constituency 62 in Kambia district commended the president for a detailed presentation to the House.

He said the president’s vision for the country was very clear, detailed and ambitious, highlighting the number of challenges inherited from the previous administration.

“I want to emphasise that for the last two decades some of the problems that have been highlighted are not just because of what happened over the past ten years but because some of them are structural problems that are deadly for several decades to come. I will hasten to say that about 85% of us are new and have not been here for the last thirty years, so we are not obligated for legislations passed here – which means that we are not obligated to accept what is wrong. Don’t be too partisan to say something,” he cautioned his colleagues.

Hon. Dr. Yumkella added that most lawmakers in both sides of the isles are below 30 years, adding that they should not be too partisan during debates in the House of Parliament, but should rather focus on issues that directly affect the people.

The NGC presidential aspirant in the 2018 polls, noted that challenges faced by the country are huge and that the president cited several indicators, among them the Sustainable Development Goals, African Agenda 2063 which show low performance by the country over the last decades.

The former United Nations undersecretary general also encouraged Members of  Parliament to conduct their oversight functions properly and ensure that they ratify agreements that are useful and beneficial to the country.

“We have to do over oversight. No single person can liberate a country without the involvement of everybody. We have to be constructive for the New Direction to succeed,” he said.

He noted that the free education flagship programme of the president is a great initiative and that all should come onboard for it to succeed, stating that the number of children that would be enrolled in the next academic year and those that are already in the system would be huge.

He said 42% of pupils are below 18 years, thus urging the need for more and better school structures.

“We have to sacrifice some sectors in order to boost the educational sector and get better university graduates. We need to restore the prestige and sanity of the tertiary education. They need attention apart from structures but that of the examination standards should grow,” he said.

On the issue of governance, the opposition lawmaker commended President Bio for wading a robust fight against corruption, which he said poses a threat to the country’s development.

“The country is losing more money from corrupt practices and nothing is taken to the educational sector or other areas. It is good for MPs to play oversight role as they will be part of that corruption scandal if they fail to perform their function well,” he noted.

In addition, Leader of the main opposition All People’s Congress Party, Hon. Chernor R.M. Bah, said “The Public Accounts Committee [under his reign as chairman] conducted thorough investigations into the Auditor General’s report and gains were made,” including that the Audit Service, headed by Mrs. Lara Taylor-Pearce, is now an Advisory Agency to the Commonwealth on financial management.

On women’s empowerment, Hon. Bah remarked that the previous government empowered women in the country’s governance, but according to him, the new government has replaced women with men in both the National Revenue Authority and the Environment Protection Agency, despite the president’s promise to empower them.

He observed that the military is the country’s pride and urged the new administration to support them, adding that the previous government did its best to upgrade the military.

“The president was once in the military and I am sure he knew what the military was before he left and today he knows what condition they are in. I am sure he will pay special attention to the military. We do hope that the new government will build on the good deeds of what the APC did for the betterment of the country,” he said.

Also, Leader of Government Business, Hon. Sidie Mohamed Tunis, commended members that contributed to the debate as they have all been constructive.

On the issue of the president’s promise to de-politicise the National Telecommunications Commission, he said the president meant that there would be no ‘orders from above’ as the institution was very important.

Hon. Tunis said: “We have seen here where the Public Accounts Committee has conducted a real time auditing and only smaller ones were indicted, leaving the big guns to move freely. Recommendations were made but all were swept under the carpet. So, the ACC will now go ahead whilst the Audit Service Sierra Leone carries out their auditing.”

Hon Tunis was responding to opposition criticism to the president’s call that the anti-graft agency should go ahead to act of the recommendations of the Audit Service without having to wait for the Public Accounts Committee to deliberate on it first.

Meanwhile, Speaker of Parliament Dr. Abass Chernor Bundu cautioned lawmakers that they should not only enact laws from government ministries, but they themselves could champion private member bills.

“For anything that has happened here in the past, you are at liberty to come to this House to amend it. You bear a responsibility to this House to hold the executive accountable. The President presented a huge document and that segment of executing your duty will start today. One of the things I will not want to see is that of oversight committees depending on handouts from ministries, departments and agencies of government that they will oversee. There should be special recognition by the Finance Ministry for MPs to carry out their work effectively and accurately as doing it will help the President, Ministers and the country,” he said.

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