P’ment may withdraw Dr.Vibbi’s approval

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January 21, 2019

 By Jariatu S Bangura

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Dr. Vibbi on his phone after his arrest on Thursday, 17th Jan.

Members of Parliament (MPs) on Thursday 17 January, 2019, resolved to debate a motion put forward for the possible withdrawal of the approval of the Executive Chairman of the Produce Monitoring Board (PMB), Dr. James Vibbi.

The motion was moved by the Acting Leader of Government Business, Hon. Sahr Mathew Nyuma of Constituency 21 in the Kenema district. The acting leader said Dr. Vibbi’s refusal to comply with parliamentary order to re-instate the suspended Executive Secretary of PMB and three other Staff, was an attempt to disrespect the House.

The Speaker of Parliament, Dr. Abass Chernor Bundu, on the same day ordered the detention of Dr. Vibbi for flouting parliamentary order that was considered to be contempt.

Hon. Nyuma cited Section 85 and 96 of the 1991 Constitution, thus calling on his colleagues not to allow Dr. Vibbi to trigger conflict between the executive and the legislative arms of government.
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The main opposition Whip, Hon. Hassan Abdoul Sesay of Constituency 50, Tonkolili district, seconded the motion for which the Speaker slated Tuesday (22nd January) to debate on it.

On Tuesday 15th January, 2019, the Speaker of Parliament, Dr. Abass Bundu, ordered Dr. Vibbi to withdraw his letter of complaint against Hon. Veronica K. Sesay and apologise  to the latter and Parliament, and to also re-instate those staff he had suspended and dismissed at PMB.

According to the Clerk of Parliament, Hon. Umar Paran Tarawallie, James Vibbi complied with two of the three orders given to him, but refused to re-instate the staff.

Responding to questions from the Speaker on the illegality of the suspension, Dr. Vibbi did accept that there was a board established by the Produce and Monitoring Act 2013 comprising 11 members, but that it required 5 members to form a quorum to decide on any issue.

 Dr. Vibbi said since the board was dissolved by a State House press release, the Ministry of Trade automatically supervised the activities of the institution and any actions taken should be done in agreement with the ministry.

Meanwhile, Senior Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Trade, Abdul R. Fofanah, said the suspended Executive Secretary, Haja Kabba, had been acting in that capacity for over four years.

He said the ministry had sent a letter of recommendation for her confirmation, but that they were yet to receive any reply.

He explained that after Dr. Vibbi took office in November 2019, he informed the ministry that he had discovered some discrepancies, but that they instructed him to put it in writing.

He said what they later received from him was a suspension letter for the Acting Executive Secretary and the three other Staff.

Fofanah stated that they tried to resolve the issue but were unable to get Dr. Vibbi to understand and that the Minister of Trade instructed him (Fofanah) to write a letter dated 8 November, 2018, to Vibbi, informing him that his actions were illegal since it was done without the approval of board members or the ministry.

He said the minister instructed him to re-instate the suspended and dismissed staff, but he failed to adhere as instructed.

In his response, Vibbi said the letter that the PS referred to had elapsed and that he together with officials from the ministry held a meeting at State House where a letter dated 4th December, 2018, was forwarded to his office, confirming that the suspension as legal.

For over two hours, Members of Parliament from SLPP, APC and some even Independent members tried their best to lore Dr. Vibbi to reverse his actions, as it was not supported by any section in the PMB Act of 2013, but he remained defiant.

The Speaker, before asking for a seconder of the motion that was earlier moved, he again questioned Dr. Vibbi whether he was ready to comply with the order to restore the suspended and dismissed staff pending the Anti-Corruption Commission investigation.

 Dr.  Vibbi maintained, “I have the responsibility here to respect this House that have, maybe, the strongest powers. I also have the responsibility to stand behind the truth which has altered most power and because of that Mr Speaker with any disrespect to you I am constrained not to withdraw the decision”.