By Melvin Tejan-Mansaray
The claim that the House of Parliament (HOP) Sierra Leone has misused one hundred and two billion Leones and counter-claim by Parliament that this is not true and that the accuser is running an illegal entity have been unabated.
This can be seen in the latest (Wednesday 17th August 2016) press conference convened by the House of Parliament at Committee Room No.1 in this unfolding saga.
This comes following a rebuttal press release by Abdul Fatorma, Executive Director Campaign for Human Rights and Development International (CHRDI) debunking (by presentation of registration certificates in UK and the Freetown City Council (FCC) of the HOP claims that it is an illegal organization not registered in the country.
According to Fatorma, the argument over the legality of his organization is a deviation from the issue raised that Parliament has not been accountable to the public.
Hon. Bundu said: “Every crime has its punishment that is why there are law officers and the judiciary to look into the merit and demerit and take a decision.
Parliament is coming out with the evidences of illegality, and all the evidences of illegality have proven that CHRDI is illegal because he presented a certificate of 2011 and we are talking about 2016 and it is clearly stated in the regulations that every CBO must renew its certificate on an annual basis. So, presenting a 2011 certificate for 2016 is null and void, that’s one thing.
In fact, even the Chief Administrator has categorically denied that this predecessor does not bear that signature, so that is forgery.”
Nonetheless, the HOP is hell-bent in filing a case against Fatorma and said that it will invite the judiciary to look at the merit and demerit of the evidence they are presenting.
He said: “Since Fatorma said that he did a research, let him also come out with his research papers and let’s move on,” noting that it is not a bad thing by CHRDI to highlight where government has spent monies, “but he has to give correct information and should not tell lies on an institution like this.
He lied on the state, and all of this information is disseminated internationally.
If an international donor wants to come and give us budget support in areas of shortfall and discovers that a certain amount of money was given and not accounted for, that donor will withhold its taxpayers’ money and it will be justifiable.
Therefore, Fatorma lied and this country should be brought to book, and so no matter where he runs to, he will be brought to book.”
Speaking to the media from abroad, he said that he is ready to face any consequence but stands by his initial submission accusing the HOP.
In the latest episode, Parliament summoned the second unusual press conference on the issue, this time, bringing the Chief Administrator of the Freetown City Council (FCC) to clarify CHRDI’s authenticity as a registered Community Based-Organization with the Council.
In their statement, the HOP told journalists that the CHRDI’s registration is not updated, making a case for Parliament to continue its argument that CHRDI is fake.
Hon. Ibrahim R. Bundu, Majority Leader and Leader of Government Business HOP said that the press conference was to enlighten the public to ‘know that this Parliament did not receive one hundred and twenty billion in five years as constituency development fund.’
Hon. Bundu said: “if someone accused you of being a thief and you did not steal, for the record, you have to make it clear; so one hundred and twenty billion never came to this Parliament.”
He castigated CHRDI, noting that they have discovered that the organization is operating unlawfully.
“We found out from the Administrator and Registrar General that CHRDI’s name is not among the five hundred and twenty-two registered NGOs and CBOs. After that, we checked with SLANGO the umbrella body and MoFED but it is also not on their records.
What we see from Fatorma’s response is that he is registered in Britain which does not bother us as it has nothing to do with its operations here; secondly Fatorma claimed that he registered with the FCC in 2011; creating a situation as if we are liars, it was carried on the papers. So, for the public to continue to know how this registration was done, we called the Chief Administrator who is responsible to register all CBOs.
The Chief Administrator has came and clearly explained to the public for their understanding the process and procedures on how a CBO is registered and this has been made clear,” Hon. Bundu narrated.
There is an apparent constitutional lacuna as to what constitutes a CBO and a civil society organization, as there is no clear-cut definition of the term; but however, their roles and contributions cannot be understated since pre and post-war Sierra Leone.
“Fatorma has given the public wrong information, it is about public money, the tax payers’ money; if someone comes and says this money has been given to MPs and they have not been able to account for it, it is trouble. You are inciting the public against MPs. We are fathers, we are mothers, we represent families, we represent people, if you come and put Parliament and MPs in disrepute, it is criminal,” the Majority Leader argued.
Apparently, it is unclear if CHRDI will produce evidence but one thing that is clear is that there is an obvious need for CHRDI to reply to these latest claims by Parliament that it lacks the legitimacy to question Parliament’s credibility as the saga continues.
On the repercussion for journalists that are purportedly publishing false and malicious materials on Parliament as expressed by no less a person but the IMC Chairman, Ambassador Alieu Kanu at the first press conference, the HOP said that the law is not for fun.
“No one is above the law, journalists or not, we will invoke the sections and all of these will be forwarded to the experts, judiciary to look into it; all of these writings; there will come a time that the authors will go and justify why they wrote it and if they had a second opinion on it.
The question is, there is always two sides to a story, if Fatorma did come to the country and told journalists that one hundred and twenty billion had been misused and a journalist goes about publishing it when you have all the right to access to information to come to Parliament or meet the Clerk or state machinery as per right; but people don’t want to follow the law which we need to liberate the country for prosperity sake.”