Today, 4th February, 2019… Commissions Of Inquiry Kicks-off

 

Just like the marathon debate in the House of Parliament for and against the passing of the three constitutional instruments into law, all eyes and ears at home and abroad will be glued to TV sets and radios to view and listen to the start of the three Commissions of Inquiry hearing commencing today.

It is presumed that the commissions have sent out invitations to the persons that will be the subject of their investigations and what date and time they are expected to present themselves before them for investigation.

Three retired judges of no mean repute from Sierra Leone, Ghana and Nigeria will each head the three commissions as sole commissioners. They were sworn into office at State House on Tuesday, the same day the President, Rtd Brig Julius Maada Bio officially launched them at the Peace Museum, former Special Court Building, New England Ville, Freetown.

It could be recalled that since August last year, the setting up of three commissions of inquiry by the Bio Government to look into the activities of key public servants in the former Ernest Bai Koroma led All People’s Congress (APC) government stirred up mixed emotions and passions among the populace.

On one hand, the Sierra Leone People’s Party led government and its supporters who have vowed that even if the sun falls down from the sky, nothing will prevent the investigation of former government officials that the government has accused of engaging in grand corruption in their eleven years stewardship of the state’s finances, assets and resources.

On the other hand, APC maintains that the investigations are a witch-hunt and a deliberate ploy by the ruling party to cast them into political oblivion by painting them blacker than the devil.

At the launching of the commissions, the Chief Justice and the Attorney General and Minister of Justice quoted from the 1991 Constitution in denying APC’s claim that a special committee that should have been set up to outline the rules of evidence by which the commissions should be guided was incorrect, and that in fact, by law, and by precedence, the commissions were properly instituted and have rules of evidence incorporated into their makeup.

Their submissions were not enough to convince the leadership of APC who that same day in the afternoon called a press conference at their party headquarters in Brookfields to reiterate their claim that the commissions are not properly constituted; and that furthermore, principal actors in the former government – namely, permanent secretaries and vote controllers – are excluded from the investigations when they bear great responsibility for the functioning of MDAs.

As such, the APC leadership once more declared that they will not allow their former government officials to subject themselves to what Secretary General Yansaneh had described as a kangaroo court.

The APC statement goes against the grain of what President Bio in launching the commissions said in very strong words that that anybody who fails to honor the invitation of the commissions will face the full force of the law.

Having told the nation before, during and after the 2018 presidential elections that he will fight three wars against indiscipline, corruption and poverty, President Bio explained at the launching that the investigations are not against the APC party but against individuals that served in the former government and denied that the commissions of inquiry are a witch-hunt. “Nobody is going to be asked whether he or she belongs to a political party or hails from a particular region,” he said.

He stated that the investigations will look at three key issues: governance processes, assets and the outcomes of forensic audits. The forensic audits, he said, tracked fraudulent activities within the entire chains of governance. The purpose of the investigations, he said, is to “act as a deterrent to every Sierra Leonean who are or will be entrusted with the public trust. They will be a reminder that when one serves one’s country, one must serve with honesty, fairness, justice, diligence and compassion”.

With APC still defiant as we went to press, what many people are thinking is whether APC will reconsider their stance and decide that they will allow their officials to be investigated by the commissions or whether President Bio will reconsider his stance that anybody who fails to honor the commissions’ invitation will face the full force of the law.