On December 22, respected journalist Amadu Lamrana Bah posted the following:
“The Acting Speaker of Parliament, Hon. Sengepoh Solomon Thomas, who also serves as Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament, has warned that it will be contemptuous if anyone tries to go ahead of Parliament to hold auditees accountable for findings in the 2022 Audit Report. This warning came from Parliament after the Anti-Corruption Commission announced yesterday that it will hold a press conference today on the 2022 Auditor General’s Report. “Parliament wishes it to be known that the Auditor General’s Report is the property of Parliament and that persons and institutions who intend to complement Parliament’s mandate in holding auditees accountable are advised to wait on the outcome of the parliamentary processes and procedure. It will be contemptuous if this order is violated,” the Acting Speaker said in a statement released from his office.”
This recurrent narrative unfolds annually following the release of the Auditor General’s Report. This caution has become a ritual, underpinned by the assertion that the Auditor General’s Report is the exclusive property of Parliament.
However, this assertion is not supported by the law passed by Parliament. Section 78 of the Anti-Corruption Commission Act stresses that when certain public officials, including the Auditor General suspect an offence, they are duty-bound to refer the matter to the Commission for investigation directly. Not via Parliament.
Section 119 (5) of the 1991 constitution specifies that Parliament shall debate the Auditor General’s report and appoint a committee to address arising matters where necessary in the public interest. However, it is crucial to emphasize that this provision does not confer exclusive or primacy rights upon Parliament to investigate the report. It is an invitation for collaboration.
Parliamentary proceedings are protracted, and experience has shown that while it conducts its hearings, crucial evidence may vanish, witnesses may pass away, and valuable time may slip away. The law, as mandated by Parliament itself, offers a solution – the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) need not wait for Parliament to conclude its investigations.
Section 10 of the Anti-Corruption Commission Act underscores the importance of cooperation between the ACC and various public bodies, including Parliament. Instead of issuing warnings that hint at contempt, there is a compelling need for Parliament to align with the spirit of the law. The ACC was set up to swiftly investigate suspected offences and ensure accountability.
Rather than cautioning the ACC, Parliament should actively support the Commission’s efforts in holding auditees accountable for any misappropriation of public funds. The ACC is an integral part of the nation’s anti-corruption framework, and a united front between Parliament and the Commission is essential to ensure timely and effective responses to financial irregularities.
In pursuing a transparent and accountable governance system, Sierraeye implores Parliament to reconsider its stance, embracing collaboration over caution. Only through collective efforts can Sierra Leone overcome the challenges of corruption and move towards a future where the misappropriation of public funds is swiftly and effectively addressed.