November 30, 2015 By: Winstanley R. Bankole Johnson
In an earlier piece I questioned the need for further parliamentary scrutiny of appointees who switch Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) within a span of say five (5) years or have their tenures renewed, more especially where the has been no change in the composition of the Parliamentary Appointments Committee (PAC) within that same period. My argument then (which I feel remains germane) was that if the appointees were not worth their oysters, they would not have been re-assigned or re-appointed in the first place. So vetting by the same PAC would seem perfunctory and unnecessary.
I quite agree that in between appointments, candidates could have fallen out with the law or even degenerated into civil disrepute which could have rendered them ineligible or for which proper scrutiny could be essential, but isn’t that why we have alternative but complimentary institutions of checks and balances like the Police, the Anti-Corruption Commission and the very Parliamentary Oversight Committees (POCs), all of whose continuous monitorings if truly effective, would have negated any consideration for their appointments or re-appointments, let alone re-assignments to other MDAs in the first place?
Consider this seeming anomaly. Persons appointed into various capacities and who have performed so creditably as to warrant their re-appointments by H.E the President into those same positions for a second stint, are still required to re-appear before the PAC comprising invariably of the same Honourable MPs who had previously endorsed them for a re-confirmation, even in the absence of evidences of unsuitability. To disqualify such appointees would slur the integrity of all monitoring agencies including the very PAC that ought to have been providing oversight roles. Besides, in no instance has any such appointee for continuity in the same posts been ever disqualified. So of what value is their re-appearance?
One categorization our Honourable Parliamentarians must scrupulously avoid – having regard to the enormity of their responsibilities – is that they are being “perfunctory” in their responsibilities – that is, to be seen to be doing things just for the sake of it – without adding value to the process. And that to me is precisely what the existing statutes would appear to be supporting for incumbents re-appointed into the same roles to serve consecutive terms – especially where no prima-facie evidence suggesting their ineligibility exists. In such cases I believe clearances from the Police or even the Office of National Security (ONS) should suffice.
Those who have been privileged to appear before the PAC can attest that it is not an experience worth reliving frequently, given the voluminous documentation they are obligated to avail to each of the sixteen or so members panel. My humble submission for a repeal of that specific section of our National Constitution is accordingly predicated on the premise that if our Drivers’ Licenses, National Identity Cards, National Passports and even the term of office of our noble Parliamentarians can all have fixed tenors (5 years), and in between which span other complimentary regulatory institutions are effectively monitoring their usages or incumbencies, then I see no reason why the appropriate sections in our National Constitution cannot be also amended to discontinue prior Parliamentary scrutiny or confirmations when appointees switch MDAs within a minimum period of three (3) years, or where their contracts are extended to serve a second consecutive term on the same jobs, especially where there has been no change in the composition of the PAC.
And the only people that can successfully champion this recommended amendment are our Honourable Parliamentarians themselves, as they prepare their final draft to the proposed Constitutional reforms contemplated.
Meantime with my radar still focused on our Honourable House of Parliament, I am sure we’re all happy with the relatively successful resolution of the impasse between Honourable Members of the Parliamentary Accounts Committee and the Kenema City Council, as it will ensure that henceforth, budgetary allocations to that Council will be made timely and not “grudgingly” or “strenuously” as inferred in Para 3 of the Press Release from the Department of Public Relationship within Parliament.
I for one am exceptionally delighted about that outcome because it cleared any misconception that might have been pervading public fora that our Honourable Parliamentarians do not perform unless they are incentivized. And I am well placed to challenge those misperceptions because I have appeared before several Parliamentary Committees several times (twice for appointments confirmations) but have at no time been pressured to compromise integrity for any favours.
But I have just a few hunches about the ACC Press Release on the same matter, especially the bit which says and I quote (from the AWOKO of 25th November) that -: “their findings did not meet the threshold for criminal prosecution under the ACC Act of 2008” – unquote. Hmmmmm!!!
My first hunch I must admit was my ignorance that a “threshold for criminality” ever existed under any law, and that if indeed it exists on corruption matters of up to Le20million as in this case, why the ACC had not publicized it all along so that many of us who have long been unemployed for so long could have been trying our hands just below the Le20million criminality “parapet” level to improve our lot – if you know what I mean. My other hunch is whether against a backdrop of that “criminality threshold”, the ACC would now wish to work with the Legal Aid Secretariat to revisit cases of all those poor Teachers, Bursars and Civil Servants inadvertently already convicted and serving custodial terms for malfeasances below the criminality threshold of Le20million.