SIERRA LEONE: PARLIAMENT MUST BE ACCOUNTABLE TO TAX PAYERSBy Mahmud Tim Kargbo
Centre, for Research Documentation Policy Studies and Development of Law
4 Lamina Sankoh Street
5th February 2027
The quality of being accountable by people holding social positions of trust in Sierra Leone must today be seen as a fundamental necessity for all public life in our democracy. When taking into account modern days Parliamentary accountability it is significant to discern two very distinctive facet. First should be the main function that the current Sierra Leone Parliament should portrays on behalf of the electorate in gripping the Executive Arm of Government to account through its oversight function. This is something we are definitely not experiencing from our current set of Parliamentarians and one just need to go through the damming corruption facts and data plus the massive abject poverty in the lives of the majority to know this hard but uncomfortable truth. Second point of view involves the accountability of our Parliament and its members to their own electorates; this shape the subject of the present Abdul Fatoma’s issue against our Parliament.
In most democratic nations where politicians are true servants that aren’t lording over the affairs of the State, it is acknowledged that the public role of politicians should make them more open to public vetting, and unprejudiced of a much expansive mountain chain of comments and criticisms, than might be rational for private persons. This supposition is fully endorsed in international jurisprudence on the freedom of expression. Unfortunately, in our modern days democracy Sierra Leone politicians are still felling proud to maintain an archaic defamation law which can be used to restrict the range of media reporting or whistle blowers exploring the activities of politicians excessively. This is precisely limiting especially when this bullying law form part of the criminal law, and a could be punishment of imprisonment for journalists and whistle blowers who may want to expose the rots of those occupying our social positions of trust whilst serving the people professionally. Additionally, current Sierra Leone Parliament have at a length maintain contempt of Parliament provisions which can be deliberately used to restrict criticism or punish whistle blowers for revealing informations that might not properly go down well with them.
Let’s all understands that it’s not a good test of the robustness of our country’s democracy that our Parliamentarians are hesitant to utilise a very oppressive source of help to restrict censure or the flow of information to the public. However, we confidently believe as they’re robbing their hands in joy with this very oppressive law, it is also in their hands to survey limited legislation which went back from a less democratic period. In this context we believe Section (95) of our current constitution must not be use selectively and we strongly believe it must be repeal to properly ensure that our democracy properly caters for all nationals.
We encourage our Parliament to patriotically and properly look in to the following Common Wealth Parliament research recommendations and see how they can swiftly but appropriately make our democracy a democracy for all not just for the selected few:
(6.2) Parliaments should repeal legislation, rescind Standing Orders and/or publicly abandon their traditional authority to punish the media and others for offending the dignity of Parliament simply by criticism of the institution or its Members.
(6.3) Inaccurate reporting should not be considered as contempt of Parliament. Contempt should be reserved for serious cases of interfe- rence with Parliament’s ability to perform its functions.
(8.2) Questions of eligibility for media access should be determined by the media itself. Parliaments should retain the right to suspend access for media representatives who violate Standing Orders or otherwise disrupt parliamentary proceedings.
(9.2) Criminal laws inhibiting free speech……should be revoked.
Accountability writers today make an excellence amid what they refer to as ‘horizontal’ and ‘vertical’ accountability. ‘Horizontal’ accountability is infected by regulatory and other supervisory bodies which are professionally arranged with profession of performers on the interest of the public . ‘Vertical’ accountability is Where the mechanism to revoke is an instance of vertical accountability, large extent common tools for addressing future misbehaviour on the part of Parliamentarians is by ways of entire set of laws that are strengthened horizontally, by a special commission acting on behalf of the public. Since President Koroma came to power we noticed the extensive maturation and acceptation of principles and codes of conduct, both for the public service generally, and for Parliamentarians in particular. It’s important to clearly understand that this gradual growth was to some degree in reaction to an ebb in public trust in the models of our Parliamentarians, and a waning confidence in Delegate or democratic institutions generally, at least in our well selective established democratic pattern. These public attitudes truly mirror actual fall in norm, and the actuality that matters of unethical professional conduct by our State Actors are now more greatly detailed and talk about, and are less readily tolerated by voters, seriously matters.
The fact our Parliamentarians are still struggling to come to terms with is highest degree public disquiet is now seriously focusing on tax payers monies or financial matters generally, and precisely on the use of legislators’ position that appears as if to advance their own personal economic interests, or the interests of individuals and organisations which sound as if they are being rewarded in some way to represent. Other concerns include levels of attendance, the use of advantaged information and the misuse of Parliamentary functions in effecting the recommendations of the Auditor General Reports and ensure value in using tax payers monies . It’s worth to note that in Sierra Leone laws of conduct for Parliamentarians have always been there, despite these are constricted in a characteristic manner to behaviour stirring the virtue order of Parliamentary affairs. So there are average laws or decree in our Parliament that forbids on speech or behaviour which affronts or threatens another member; which blocks the liberty of discussion or voting; or which shows discourtesy to the institution or its leading officer. Addition to such matters of inner quality arrangement and propriety, it has always been understood as a principle and taken for granted that Sierra Leoneans elect their Parliamentarians to serve the interest of the public, rather than their personal or private ones. And this comparatively necessitate the reason our law drafters make this principle clear in our published set of norms and our public code of conduct in order to intensify trust externally in the uprightness of the activities of our Parliamentarians.
Judging from years of experience, we know for sure that besides the quality of being inclusive of the suffrage and the nature of the electoral system, the political quality of serving on behalf of the people of Sierra Leone in our Parliament may also be influenced by those who practically activate their right to vote. Despite the fact that there are many causes for people in Sierra Leone not doing so, a shared one is the creed that those who are elected are not representing the interests of the voters. This is a wide spread opinion among most parts of our society and this continue to swerve the resulting character of our Parliament. Say for example, the cost of campaigning for election may negatively affect the ability of our Parliamentarians to truly represent our interests rather than of those who have donated most to their election coffers. There must be example of good practice to uphold the strict financial rules for the credibility of the electoral process and consequently for electoral turnout in truly regulating political parties campaigns and party finance to enhance accountability within Parliamentarians. Sierra Leone Parliament like most democratic Parliaments rely on journalists, civil society organisation’s, editors and media presenters for telling the public about their activities. Still there is much interactive suspiciousness between them. Whistle blowers are often disappointed by limitations on access to proceedings, or by contempt and defamation laws which may superfluously compel what they can publicly report. Parliamentarians on their side hold the press and other whistle blowers partly responsible for the low respect in which they are collectively held, because of a one sided depiction of their work.