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Monday, July 4, 2022

The Week that Was with Alfred Koroma

Constituency 056

On Saturday coming, one of Sierra Leone’s two main political parties is expected to learn a lesson from voters in Constituency 056, Tonkolili District. The people of Samaia Bendugu Chiefdom will be voting to elect a new Member of Parliament to represent the Constituency in Parliament until the final session of the Fifth comes to an end next year. Either of the two candidates is set to be elected MP on Saturday – Tholley Foyoh of the ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) and Jawah Sesay representing the All People’s Congress. The looser will have a lesson to learn from the people. 

It is expected to be a tensed contest as tensions have already heightened between the political parties. Campaign rallies for the bye-election are already marred by violence, attracting wide condemnation nationally and internationally.

 On the 7 of this month, the main opposition APC campaign in the Constituency resulted into a bloody violence leaving people injured and properties destroyed. But there is a reason behind the heightened tension.

 The article “Why is constituency 056 bye-election so important?” published last week in the Wednesday edition of this paper captured the key reasons why both parties consider the bye-election as a must win.    

 Last week, the UN Resident Coordinator, Babatunde Ahonsi in Sierra Leone, Political Parties Registration Commission and the country’s Electoral Commission issued statements condemning the violence and calling for immediate investigation to find out what precipitated June 7 violence.

A dishonorable Parliament?

As the country’s future bleaks, rocked by stagflation and rising cost of living, MPs are demanding a higher pay for themselves. A controversial bill dubbed “Parliamentary Welfare Bill’ exposed MPs demands for 15,000USD Medical allowance and 25,000 USD Vehicle allowance of per term.  A month salary recess allowance for MPs and opportunity for them to fly on business class for all international travels and Le250, 000 sitting allowance are also part of the controversial Bill. But when the bill first leaked out to the public week after last, Parliament issued a press release distancing itself from the bill.

But again, last week, MPs from all sides of the House throw support for the bill with the Deputy Leader of the main opposition, Ibrahim Ben Kargbo bragging they owe the public no apology for their welfare. APC, the main opposition party in Parliament is notorious for opposing controversial bills in the legislative house, but it seems the Welfare Bill is a different case for APC MPs.   Concord Times Parliamentary reporter, Jariatu S Bangura witness MPs sudden solidarity around the bill and wrote more on their views about the bill.

But Parliament is making the demand as constituents fret over not only the hikes in the cost of living, but also over MPs negligence of duty. Recent reports published have increasingly accused them of poor punctuality and weakness in monitoring the expenditure of public finances, one of the basic functions of the House.

It’s obvious that MPs tardiness and absenteeism has become notorious in the House of Parliament.

 Recently last month, a report from the Institute of Governance Reform (IGR) exposed MPs unnecessary absenteeism and poor punctuality in the House which has always been a source of concern for Speaker who has not done enough to remedy to discipline the House. About one fifth of MPs did not attend half of the Parliamentary sittings in the last quarter of 2021. Of the few that attended, 47 did not participate during debate (IGR report).

Last month again, the Open Budget Survey (OBS) report published  by the Budget Advocacy Network (BAN) rates Parliament 33 out of 100 percent in monitoring budget implementation. The report says Parliament provides weak oversight during the planning stage of the budget cycle, weak oversight during the implementation stage and weak in monitoring the expenditure of public finances in the country.

And in March this year, a report published by Institute for Governance Reforms (IGR) after reviewing six audits reports identifies poor oversight by Parliamentary Oversight Committees as one of the issues re-appearing in all the audit reports reviewed.

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