Salone News

Wanted: A transparent parliament

By  | 6 March 2010 at 01:08 | 380 views

Commentary

Britain’s parliament is recovering from a public humiliation, courtesy of an infamous expenses scandal, which forced its ex- speaker, Michael Martin into a premature retirement, last summer. His crime? Trying to block public access to details of claims made by MPs at Westminster for expenses. But when the ever vigilant British press delved deep into the issue, what did they discover? A can of worms! From members of parliament claiming re-imbursement for items as trivial as lavatory seats, pornographic materials, and payments for services rendered by their own private companies, the nation was left with distrust for the honourables they voted for. But perhaps, the British public and media left things too much too late. And all of these could not have happened at a worse time; a period of recession, when tax payers were been asked to cough up to bail mismanaged banks and other institutions.

This brings me to the Sierra Leone scenario. Recently, local tabloids reported a windfall of Le43.8m (forty-three million, eight hundred Leones) for each Member of Parliament, for constituency facilitations. I cannot at this point go into history to establish whether this gesture by the Koroma administration is unprecedented. But what I do know is that constituents all over the country need just that, to jump start them from the economic misery the war had brought upon them. For this I, and am sure most patriotic Sierra Leonean’s will give a thumb up to the government. The buck has now been passed to the MPs to better the lives of their constituents.

But even as they are set to utilise the windfall, the MPs have had a false start. According to Awoko Newspaper of the 22 February 2009, the attempts to interview the MPs on how they will utilise the money were futile. ‘..all of them declined’, Awoko noted.

This is the thrust of this article. Why would the MPs want to shroud their plans for their constituents in human size wools? Have the people through the press have no right to know how their lives are being governed? Have the MPs got any master plan? If so, why would they not disclose it to the press? Maybe, now is the time to press for the Freedom of Information Act.

Whatever the MPs do with those allocations; they should be made to know that the people and fourth estate are watching. The bottlenecks they are creating will definitely come to haunt them. I don’t like it to happen the British way; to call to order when the deed has been done. It is therefore advised that the peoples’ representatives go to their constituencies and get the people involved in mapping out their own future. All of these activities should be transparently done, involving the media for reasons of accountability.

It is interesting to note that at the same time the MPs were waiting for their cheques, parliament was calling for the Sierra Leone Teachers’ Union (SLTU) to be investigated over claims that its memberships are not happy paying their Le 8,000.00 (eight thousand leones) dues, that are not well accounted for. My ex-college mate, now Honourable Philip Tondoneh is spot on in calling the SLTU to order. Reading the story, I remembered my days as a teacher in Sierra Leone, and I wondered why the perennial problem that was plaguing the SLTU has still not been solved. Why should parliament interfere anyway, if the SLTU was to maintain its independence? Has the membership not got the resolved to change things? And I only wished my good old friend, Hon. Tondoneh, a.k.a Mr. Tee, was not using the SLTU saga to deflect attention from the issue at hand: What do they plan to do with the Le43.8m? The question is simple; really. And the people, who in actual fact are their employers/masters, await answers.

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