Lawmakers yesterday approved the newly appointed Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) Chief, Francis Ben Kaifala, amid controversies as members of the opposition All People's Congress (APC), Coalition for Change (C4C), National Grand Coalition (NGC) and Paramount Chief Members of Parliament boycotted the process.
President Bio axed the former ACC boss, Ady Macauley, a fortnight ago and appointed Ben Kaifala to the enviable position. His appointment was criticised by Civil Society Organisations who argued that the president did not followed due process as stipulated by law.
Leader of the main opposition APC, Hon. Chernor Bah, disclaimed and disassociated his party from the Seventh Report of the Committee on Appointments and the Public Service, describing it as "purported, inconclusive and without unanimity".
He also said that "the debate had been skewed, and that nobody is contending the capacity and competence of the nominee; save for procedural breaches".
"After the interview yesterday, we all agreed that the committee was supposed to meet this morning before the parliamentary sittings to complete the report but that never happened. And now we are here to present the nominee for approval. I therefore move that this report is not in the view of all committee members. We have not and we will not adopt this report," he said
He noted that the debate has nothing to do with the qualification of the nominee but the procedure surrounding his appointment, thus urging his colleagues to focus the debate on the subject of discussion.
He reiterated that the report was not a unanimous view of members of the committee on appointment, thus requesting that the motion be expunged as it contained his name and other MPs who were not part of the adoption of the report.
"Today has been a different day and it has been confirmed that nobody in our party is allowed to debate on the approval of the nominee. Nobody has different perception of his qualification but we are not part of the purported committee report. The committee report is fraudulent and some members mentioned in that report were not present during the 5pm interview," he charged.
Also, Leader of the NGC, Dr. Kandeh Kolleh Yumkella, who was not allowed to speak in the Well of Parliament during the approval, told journalists outside the Well that 7 out of the 13 members of the Committee on Appointment proposed to stall the hearings as some of them never had prior knowledge about the interview.
He argued that the public also should be given time to be well informed about the nominee because of the sensitivity of such appointment, and that committee members should also be given the opportunity to vet the credentials of the nominee prior to the interview.
Dr.Yumkella noted that some of them were not in support of the exigency of the interview of the nominee considering its importance, claiming that the interview lasted for only 13 minutes and that there was nowhere in the world that such has ever happened.
"Giving the sensitivity of the position, we objected that the time allotted to the interview was very minimal and as such people shouldn't be interviewed in such a short period especially for such sensitive post. The committee that met had 11 people and 6 of us objected based on the statutory flaws that needed to be discussed, but we were shut down," he said.
He however conceded that the Act of Parliament did not supersede the constitution, but noted that it gives effect to the constitution on how things should be done based on the approval of parliament.
He cited four positions in the country including Governor of the Central Bank, Chief Justice, Vice President and the Commissioner of the Anti-Corruption Commission that the constitution protects in order to ensure independence, impartiality and effectiveness
"The Commissioner has to be independent and feel very comfortable in carrying out his work. But I feel sorry for the young man- a brilliant man subjected now to a process that in itself is now being questionable by many. Many of us that have questioned his appointment are in the majority. Some of us raised concerns and drew the attention of the Speaker but we were ignored," he said.
He submitted that the said report made lots of claims and that he as leader of NGC was denied to sound his voice even when he stood up four times.
Dr. Yumkella stated that the practice of deliberately refusing leaders of opposition political parties to speak in parliament means their parties will have to speak outside, and that such act will not be tolerated as they were elected like any other member.
"The new direction cannot follow the old direction. People used to tell me that they used to do that in the past and many examples were given but we were not there at that time. You cannot repeat the bad practice of the past government," he said, adding that leaders of parties were supposed to close the debate, but he was denied the opportunity.
He recalled in December 2007, when SLPP MPs walked-out of Parliament after the wrongful removal of the then Bank Governor- J. D Rogers. He stated however that, the sacking of the then Bank Governor was in contravention of Section 52 of the Bank of Sierra Leone Acts.
He noted that similar act was demonstrated by the APC when they staged a walked out at the time Kanje Daramy was appointed to head the National Telecommunications.
"What is happening now in parliament is worrisome. Let us don't begin to do things that have been done in the past. Nobody questioned the right of the appointment of the President but for the sake of due process and constitutionality," he said.
He urged that the right procedures be followed so that others do not repeat the same wrong things, thus claiming that some people were given wrong advice to the President.
He urged the nominee to note that there was a cloud over his head and will have to justify the truth, thus urging him to fight corruption as he promised.
He said the youthful commissioner has to prove to the nation that he worth the position and make sure not to spear any sacred cow.
Meanwhile, Hon. Veronica Kadie Sesay representing Constituency 94, Moyamba district, urged the nominee to not only bark, but also bite as much has been reported on corrupt practices in the country.
"The nominee is qualified enough to fight corrupt practices in the country. I want you to know that fighting corruption has to do with changing the attitude of individuals especially those at the commission," she said.
Independent Member of Parliament, Hon. Emilia Tongi of Constituency 001 in Kailahun said the nominee is over qualified for the position, but noted that corruption was a cancer that is incurable; stating that President Bio has found the right prescription to cure the disease.
"Corruption does not take economy forward but destroys the country. Go to Pamlap, lot of vehicles cross the border and those that are there make monies for themselves and not for the government. Let accept and push him to the end that he fight the corrupt practices in the country," she urged.
Meanwhile, the new Commissioner Yesterday took oath of office at the State House immediately after he was approved by Parliament.
During the ceremony at State House, President Bio congratulated the young commissioner on his new role and noted that corruption was not only a governance problem but a national security concern that should be dealt with seriously.
Commissioner Ben Kaifala promised the president that he would do his best to ensure that corruption was reduced in the country.