Commissions of Inquiry: MPs to debate Constitutional Instruments Monday

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October 19, 2018

By Jariatu S Bangura

Lawmakers will Monday, 22nd October, discuss Constitutional Instruments No. 64, 65 and 67 that had been tabled in parliament by Deputy Minister of Justice, Abdulai M. Bangura Esq.

Bangura laid the instrument pursuant to section 147 of Sierra Leone’s 1991 Constitution, which mandates the president to set up a commission of inquiry headed by a sole or two or more commissioners through a Cabinet advisory or resolution of parliament.

After assuming the presidency in April, President Julius Maada Bio appointed a 12-man transition committee, which reported its finding three months later that the former administration was allegedly guilty of ‘egregious’ financial crimes and systemic looting of the public treasury, among a litany of financial impropriety and abuse of office highlighted in their report.

Leader of Parliament and Government Business, Hon. Sidie Mohamed Tunis move a motion Thursday that the much anticipated Constitutional Instruments be debated on the next adjournment date – Monday.

Leader of the main opposition All Peoples Congress (APC), Hon. Chernor R. M. Bah, who seconded the motion, added that lawmakers have been working together for the debate on three constitutional instruments to be held concurrently and on the same day.

On his part, Speaker of Parliament Dr. Abass Chenor Bundu maintained that the three constitutional instruments would be debated before the maturity date of 21-days expires in accordance with section 170(7) of the Constitution of Sierra Leone Act No. 6 of 1991.

“The instruments were laid on the 2nd August and the maturity date will commence on the 23rd October. I am implying that the request made by both the mover and the seconder be granted as we have been waiting for this debate since the 2nd and 11th October, which was the next adjournment dates but nothing was done. Now that the request has been made it would be carried accordingly,” averred the Speaker.

He emphasised that the sole item on the Order Paper on Monday should be the debate of the three instruments.

The Deputy Minister of Justice first laid two Constitutional Instruments in Parliament in early August, just before the House went on recess, with a view to establishing two commissions of inquiry, headed by Nigerian Judge Biobele Georgewill and Sierra Leonean Justice Bankole Thompson. He subsequently tabled another instrument, which would be reported chaired by a yet unknown Ghanaian judge.

The commissions would examine the assets of persons who were president, vice presidents, ministers, ministers of states, deputy ministers, heads and chairmen of boards of parastatals, departments and agencies between the period of 2007 to April 2018.

This invariably means former President Ernest Bai Koroma and his two vice presidents, Chief Samuel Sam-Sumana and Victor Bockarie Foh will be hauled before either of the commissions, including his ministers.

Also, the commissions would inquire into and investigate whether assets of previous public officials were acquired lawfully or unlawfully, as well as investigate whether those officials maintained a standard of life commensurate to their emoluments.

In addition, the commissions would investigate whether former public officials own or are in control of pecuniary or property disproportionate to their official emoluments or establish whether there was corruption, dishonesty or abuse of office for private benefits.

The commissions would also inquire into whether public officials in the previous regime collaborated with any other persons in respect of corruption, dishonesty or abuse of office, while also investigating whether public officials acted willfully or complacently in such a manner so as to cause financial loss or damage to the government, local authority or parastatals, including public corporations.

The commissions would further establish whether public officials acquired, directly or indirectly, financial or material gains fraudulently, improperly or willfully to the detriment of the government, local authority or parastatals, including public corporation, statutory commission, body or any University of Sierra Leone.

Meanwhile, it is not immediately known when the three commissions would start hearing even after the Constitutional Instruments that set them up would have matured. What, however, is clear is that the ‘New Direction’ administration, led by President Julius Maada Bio, seems determined to push it through the commission in a bid to fight graft and put an end to impunity.