• September 14, 2020

TAC, MIC Unhealthy Fall Out

TAC, MIC Unhealthy Fall Out
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By Joseph A. Kamanda

Last week Thursday 10th September, 2020 drama before the oversight Committee on Transparency and Accountability in the House of Parliament, over whose decisions and directives should be followed in the said unbundling of the Sierra Leone Cable Limited (SALCAB) has left many with doubts as to who take orders from whom, in the most disorganized ever Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) administration. A system with little or no regards for authorities even among them which is why the attitudes and behaviours of most of them are not strange culture to the regime.

Some are of the firm views that Swaray’s conduct to the Committee and in the whole SALCAB issues is a mere back stabbing against President Julius Maada Bio, who had recently commended the outstanding performance of the agency in his State Opening of Parliament in May this year. Such a conduct is undermines the efforts of the leader and the entire governance system.

The issues of SALCAB emerged recently in public domain when the media exposed a reportedly ‘proposed sales plans’ by the Ministry of Information and Communications to a private entity, on grounds that the agency is a liability on government and it must therefore be disposed of to prevent further wastages on a department changed with the task of providing internet connectivity through the ace fibre cable. And has to some extent won the admirations of the presidency only to be sold or unbundled so soon by Minister Swaray.

This has raised serious concerns from the public to a peak that the Transparency and Accountability Committee extend an invite to the line Ministry of Information and Communications in the person of the Minister, Mohamed Rahaman Swaray, who was supposed to appropriately inform the Committee about the operations and activities as well as the said unbundling process, it merits and disadvantages of the would be divided SALCAB.

Unfortunately for the committee and the public, it didn’t happen as expected from the minister. It rather turned out to be war of words between the TAC Chairman and the Minister of Information and Communications, over his deliberate refusal to answer questions posed to him by the Committee Chairman, Hon. Ibrahim Tawa Conteh.

Minister Swaray severally refused to reply to concerns and questions from the committee chair, based on what he referred to as a “cabinet conclusion,” with further claims that it is a government decision reached at during the seventh meeting of cabinet. He argued that the agency does make not profit for government and should be unbundled into two entities – ace submarine cable to manage the fibre, and that of the terrestrial backbone cable.

These, Swaray told the Committee, cabinet has taken decision and thus refused to make statement on concerns and questions put to him by the Committee Chairman Hon. Conteh.

The exchanged of words with anger continued between the Committee and the Minister to a point that other members of the committee responded to the cabinet minister, which resulted to chaotic scene followed by the untimely resignation of Hon Conteh as Chairman of the Committee. His fall out with the executive representative-Minister Swaray on the SALCAB issue sounded strange as he is the first ever MP to take such a strong decision against the unacceptable behaviour of cabinet minister before a very honourable sub-legislative body. That derogatory attitude of the minister has been described by many as an affront to the House of Parliament, the ruling SLPP and the government as a whole as his conduct spoke less regard for the legislative body of government.

No matter how strong backings Minister Swaray had got from the top, SALCAB being a state owned enterprise, fully supported with funds from the consolidate revenue funds, must therefore be checked by the appropriate oversight bodies in the House of Parliament should in case of any mismanagement concerns raised, as Hon. Conteh and his committee were exactly about to do when the Minister of Information and Communications refused denied them audience. His refusal to be accountable to the committee has as well raised suspicions about a fishy deal about to be executed by the ministry.

It appears as if there is nothing to tell the Committee whiles in fact there is more to tell the public through the Transparency and Accountability Committee, that is why Minister Swaray should have in the best interest of international best practices explained to the world exactly what is happening at the agency, and has already gone wrong, as it forms a very strong component of democratic good governance. The society for sure is anxious to know what is being done with their tax payers’ moneys.

One thing that always comes to mind as a serious public concern in any democratic dispensation is that transparency must be upheld to the highest esteem. Therefore all grey areas in the controversial SALCAB issue must be cleared once and for all before MPs who have chairing series of parliamentary oversight committees continue to resigns from their chairmanship positions for not being granted the free hands to perform their functions as required by the laws of the land.

Moreover, other areas of concerns have to do with the undemocratic manners in which the executive most times handle issues leaving greater majority of the society out of processes that required the complete involvements of the people. And in such instances we must be frank enough to ask if the society was actually involve in the process of developing any reform policy or any form of research was conducted to sound views and public opinions on the said unbundling of SALCAB even before the Minister of Information and Communications was called to appear before the oversight committee on Transparency and Accountability. Such practices need to be strictly observed in future in any given circumstances of that nature, as part of the consultation process with the society, to make it a pro-people led drive, instead of just taking the public by the storm.

With that in mind if they were to adhered to those rules, they have been able to uncover the responses of the public on the merits and demerits of the proposed changes, as well as what gains such reforms would earn the public.

Observing those little things that were not met, as expected am pretty sure were the more reasons the Minister of Information and Communications refused to account for his stewardship on the SALCAB issue in the line ministry, due to his unprofessional misconduct, and the unhealthy fall out with the committee which caused the premature resignation of Hon. Ibrahim Tawa Conteh, as the Chairman of the oversight committee.

Hope we cross out ‘Ts’ and dot our ‘Is’ well the next time we have an engagement with such a body.

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