Money talks in Sierra Leone Parliament
By Ekundayo Cole
Chief Executive of Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law – CARL, Ibrahim Tommy identifies the police, public health centres, public schools and parliament as the most corrupt institutions in the country, after a public perceptions survey. Members of Parliament consider themselves as the people’s representative, law makers, debaters, scrutinisers, community developers and overseers of ministries, departments, and agencies.
In performing these functions, our supreme legislative authority interact with people in all levels of society, from the presidency, businesses, to individual constituents.
Integrity is crucial in all of this, because ‘honourable members’ in effect set standard of public expectations, for those they call upon and supervise. Since 2018, the house has been on record for banishing opposition MPs, questionable Speaker election, unreasonable salary demand from Le12,000,900 to Le37 million per month, and the Tawa Vs Clerk corruption revelation.
The Tommy report looks just like another chapter in our 2018-2023 parliamentary drama. Speaker of Parliament Dr Abass Bundu believes Parliament ‘cannot be described as corrupt, let alone the second most corrupt institution in the country.”
His position agrees with Mr Clerk’s fiery defence at 98.1 FM almost a year ago. But, trailblazer MP’s like Hindolo Gevao and Ibrahim Tawa Conteh differ from the rather conformist view. Both admitting corruption is prevailing in Parliament. Hon Gevao gave a poignant artwork of presidential nominees and line ministries offering bribe to members attending pre-legislative and budget hearings.
He said “If ministries do not offer bribe, members would withhold their budgets” Essentially enforcing the grundnorm of the house. Yet, corruption in Parliament is not confined only to Sierra Leone. The British public endured the damaging expenses scandal of 2009. Members of Parliament alleged to have misused allowance and expenses; attempted to exempt themselves from the Freedom of information legislation.
In Nigeria, House of Representatives member Farouk Lawan was caught on tape accepting $620,000 out of a $3 million bribe, while his committee investigated the fuel subsidy scam. And Mahama Ayariga alleged that some Ghanaian appointment committee MP’s were given GH₵ 3000 to approve the nomination of energy Minister designate Boakye Agyarko.
After all, fantastic corruption and dodgy deals are also common in other parliaments. But, Sierra Leone Parliament must now reform itself to set better precedent for the rest of us. Let integrity be the front burner of future budget hearings, oversight and scrutiny’s. Abandon ‘money talks’ for truth in power, nationalism, and patriotism.