Le6B For Commissions Of Inquiry …Unexplained Wealth Of Ex-President, VP, Ministers, Deputies, Officials From 2007 to 2018 Targeted 

 

The Deputy Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abdulai Bangura has disclosed that cabinet has approved the sum of Le6 billion as funding for the three Commissions of Inquiry (COIs) that were approved by Parliament. The Minister in updating the public about the Government’s COIs said his office has been busy working to sensitize the public about the importance of the commissions, and preparing the budget for the exercise. At the same time, he said, the Justice ministry has been having engagements with line ministries to ensure that the commissions are successful. Ministry of Works, he disclosed, will renovate four containers at the Special Court facility which would be utilized for the said COIs. “Everything is in place,’ Abdulai Bangura assured.

The COIs which, he said, will start in January 2019 is for the former President, his Vice, ministers and their deputies and heads of MDAs to give account of their stewardship from 2007 to 2018. Three judges – Justice Biobele from Nigeria, a retired Supreme Court judge, Justice Annan from Ghana and Justice Bankole Thompson from Sierra Leone resident in USA will head each of the three commissions.

Initially, the plan was for the commissions to last not more than three months, due to concerns raised by the former party that was in power, which, he said, President Bio took into consideration ordering a time limit for the COIs. It was based on this that the Justice Ministry prepared a budget of Le3.8 billion which cabinet raised to Le6 billion in case the COIs last up to six months which is the time the ministry envisions for them to last for.

The selection of the judges, Abdulai Bangura said, is to dispel any feeling of bias and unfairness in the minds of those that will be investigated. “Those appearing before the COIs must feel comfortable and relaxed,” he said. Abdulai Bangura clarified that all tribes and regions were represented in the former government. As such, the COIs, he said, will be all embracive of persons who were in charge of the offices, their conduct and their stewardship.

The Attorney General’s Office, he said, has been collecting evidence and now has enough for the investigations to start. He said the COIs will not be guided by strict rules of evidence, as found in the courts. He called the COIs the people’s commission and called on one and all to own the process as it seeks the interest of the people.

He therefore appealed for people to furnish his ministry with any useful information about those to be investigated for assets that they acquired whilst in office and whether they were commensurate with their earnings and how funds that were allocated to them were used. A notice to the effect states that the COIs will investigate lands, houses, bank accounts, shares in companies, cars and any other properties of value.

Names, Abdulai Bangura said, will not be called now, only when the COIs start sittings, adding that they will be open and fair and that everybody will be welcome to witness the proceedings that will also be aired in the media.

No travel ban is effected as the government is granting permission to all those named in the GTT report that request to travel abroad on the belief that all have claimed innocence and therefore have no reason to flee the country. However, if anyone does, there are mechanisms for bringing he/she back.

Permanent Secretaries, although part of the inquiry will be called upon to give evidence if so required. The investigation centers on the political heads who Abdulai Bangura said bear the greatest responsibility. The penalties that will be meted out on those found guilty, he said, will emanate from the government Whitepaper that will come out of the COIs findings. These would include money and asset recovery and forfeiture of unexplained properties to the state. He did not speak of jail terms as desired by many citizens.

On the question of whether assets owned from doing private business whilst in office are exempted from the investigation, the Deputy Attorney General explained that by the 1991 Constitution, such public officials are not allowed by law to engage in any private business whilst holding office. Doing so, he said, constitutes conflict of interest.