Lawmakers Approve NATCOM Boss, Others

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June6, 2018

By Jariatu S. Bangura

lawmaker
The nominees during the parliamentary deliberations

Members of Parliament yesterday approved the new Chairman of the National Telecommunications (NATCOM), Dr. Prince Harding, and eleven others to serve in various capacities as deputy ministers and heads of institutions.

The approval of especially the NATCOM Chairman and Executive Chairman of National Public Procurement Authority (NPPA) – Ibrahim B. Swarray- generated some controversy among members of the main opposition All People’s Congress (APC).

APC lawmaker representing Constituency 95 in Kambia District, Hon. Abdul Karim Kamara, urged the House not to approve the appointment of the NPPA boss.

“This House should not approve Ibrahim B. Swaray as he had been indicted in the Ebola mismanagement report by the Public Account Committee. I am also worried about the Office of the President. He said on his maiden speech here in Parliament that he will de-politicise NATCOM but unfortunately, weeks after, we heard that the chairman of SLPP have been nominated to serve as chairman of the commission. I hope he has not been pressured to nominate him. We are here today to approve him but I will not be a party to such. I am calling on this House that we do not approve Dr. Prince Harding and Ibrahim B. Swaray. The people of SLPP must be careful in protecting the President,” said the opposition lawmaker.

Hon. Kamara noted that the integrity of the presidency and nominees must be protected by the House, adding that the New Direction must change the ‘habit’ of copying  bad precedence, apparently alluding to the era of his party in government.

Earlier, Acting Leader of the APC, Hon. Ibrahim Ben Kargbo, complained that they have not been provided with a copy of the report of the Appointment Committee, this threatening to boycott the approval of the eleven nominees.

“We on this side of the House will not participate in the approval process as we have not been provided with any copy of the Appointment committee’s report on the said interviewed nominees,” said the septuagenarian lawmaker.

But Speaker of Parliament, Dr. Abass Bundu, urged the Clerk to expedite the sharing of copies to MPs, noting that the process would not continue until every lawmaker has been given a copy. The Speaker had to adjourn the sitting until 1 p.m. when copies of the report were provided to Members.

On his part, Deputy Leader of Government Business in Parliament, who seconded the motion for the approval of nominees, Hon. Mathew S. Nyuma, said the nominees had fought for the good of the country and not for themselves, stating that their appointment was not a political payback, but one that was done in the interest of the country.

“He is the newly approved NATCOM boss. Dr. Prince Harding is a political pet and a man of the day. We cannot celebrate today without him. There is no need to go into the professionalism of the nominee as he has the economic qualification for the position,’ Hon. Nyuma argued.

“Dr. Harding is over-qualified for the position. When the now President was taking to the SLPP party office as candidate, Dr. Harding was there to promote him. He actually deserves the motto of our party as he has been working hard towards that motto. If one should win elections in this country, Dr. Prince Harding and former Vice President Victor Foe should be recognized for their resilience as they could make the people of this country vote for these two parties.
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If they are removed or forsaken by the parties, they will surely fall.”

He noted that the new NATCOM boss will de-politicise the institution as he knows how to handle issues, while also urging him maximise resources into the country’s coffers.

The SLPP deputy parliamentary leader also urged the nominees, especially the Commissioner General of National Procurement Authority – Ibrahim Swarray – that the country was in need of people who could serve her interest and not political parties.

“I want you Mr. Swarray not to dismantle those people that have been bad to you but make sure that you serve the country rather than the party. I must tell you that there are existing structures in the authority. Please do not undermine those committee members that you will meet there and contribute to revenue mobilisation,” admonished Hon. Nyuma.

Independent Member of Parliament, Hon. Shiaka Sama of Constituency 104 in Pujehun district, said the nominees and lawmakers should appreciate that they serve the country as SLPP votes alone was not enough to elect President Bio into office.

“If we have to move forward the New Direction, there is need to work with other people and we must put the right people in the right places. I do believe that the nominees will be able to perform as expected. I must tell you all that even if you are the bosses and have to make decision, that does not make you misuse or undermine your staff when you take over your offices. I would like you to be role models and make the New Direction a success. I’m sure you will make the President proud,” he said.

Hon. Sama said: “We either prosper or perished together. Make sure you work together. Let us see development as you take up office. Most times, development that people usually see is only displayed on papers, but not accessible by the people.”

He told the new Director General Of Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation, Lawyer Joseph Kapuwa, that rural areas need to have television stations installed because the public broadcaster should not be limited to just bigger towns and district headquarter towns.

He also admonished the new NASSIT boss that millions of Leones have been spent on the affordable housing that the Trust has been investing in, but according to him, the cost of those houses are exorbitant.

“Make sure you consider constructing better houses built of local materials. Make it affordable for local people. Most of our people cannot afford what is being built by NASSIT,” said the independent lawmaker.

Hon. Rebecca Yei Kamara of the Coalition for Change (C4C), said the National Revenue Authority was the backbone of the country’s revenue drive and that if managed well, the country would be better off economically.

“We can’t say we are satisfied with the people that are deployed at the checkpoints where market women travelled with their goods. But I am pleading that you ensure that a good system be put in place along the high ways where petty traders conduct their daily businesses. The custom officers follow the women, leaving the bigger mining companies that should pay higher revenues to the country,” she said.

Hon. Kamara admonished the NASSIT boss to crosscheck all the information about pensioners as many employers have been deducting monies from their employees all in the name of NASSIT contribution, but that doesn’t show when employees visit the offices of the Trust.

Chairman of the Committee and Leader of government Business, Hon. Sidie Mohamed Tunis, said calls by the main opposition for the nomination of the NPPA boss to be rejected was unfortunate as the issue had been laid to rest by the then Deputy Minister of Justice, John Arrow Bockarie, who countered the report of the Public Accounts Committee which debarred Ibrahim Swaray from holding any procurement position in the various ministries mentioned by the committee.

The following nominees were also approved:  Joseph Kapuwa – Director General of SLBC, Ibrahim Brima Swaray -Executive Officer, National Public Procurement Authority, Dr. Prince Alex Harding – proposed Chairman National Telecommunication(NATCOM),  Ibrahim Turay -deputy Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Andrew Jaia Kaikai – proposed Chief Immigration Officer,  Umaru N. Koroma Esq – Chairman National Commission for Privatization (NCP), Dr. Foday Moriba Jaward as proposed Executive Director – Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Mohamed Haji-Kella as Deputy Minister -Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs, Mohamed Fuad Daboh as proposed Director General –National Social Security and  Insurance Trust (NASSIT) Brig. General (Rtd) John A.O Jah-Tucker as proposed National Security Coordinator Office of National Security (ONS).