By Foday Moriba Conteh
The second sitting of the Tribunal set up by his Excellency the President to look into the performance of the Auditor-General Lara Taylor-Pearce and her Deputy Tamba Momoh was held on the 7th April, 2022.
All three members of the panel were present: Justice Matturi-Jones JSC presiding, Justice Ivan Sesay JA and Lahai Farma Esq.
Lawyers representing the State were O. Kanu, J.K. Sesay, T.J, Freeman and others. R.S.V Wright appeared to legally represent the Auditor-General and M. P. Fofana and K. Yillah as Defence Lawyers for the Deputy Auditor-General, Tamba Momoh.
Justice Ivan Sesay started off by saying Justice demands that the court tells the defendants their purpose of being before the court and it is for the court to inform them.
The Registrar of the Supreme Court was then asked to read the gazette dated 17th March 2022 to the Auditor-General and her Deputy which contained the mandate and terms of reference of the tribunal.
After the first reading, the Learned Judge then asked the Auditor-General if she understood what was read to which she replied in the negative.
The Learned Judge then asked the Registrar to read the gazette a second time and the same question was posed to the Auditor-General and her Deputy and on this occasion they both answered in the affirmative that they understood.
Lead counsel for the State indicated that he was unsure as to how to proceed and wanted the courts guidance as to the procedure which should be followed.
The Head of the tribunal instructed that the State gets their documents in order and made it clear that as the panel was currently sitting the Secretariat is not functional and requests have been made for certain necessary equipment to get the Secretariat up and running.
The judge expressed that this is a season where everyone must adapt to the changes as they come and that everyone should be patient.
It was made clear that the three members of the tribunal had been working on practice directions independently and were now working towards putting these together to form comprehensive directions, but such should not stop the tribunal from dealing with preliminary issues.
It is the expectation that the delay will provide the State with enough time to out its papers together. The tribunal indicated that their eyes were focused on fair play and justice further promising that the practice directions will be sent to all parties involved as soon as possible.
Counsel for the 2nd defendant, Pa Momoh Fofanah, brought to the panel and State’s attention that certain benefits and allowances which are due to his client and ought not be affected by the ongoing tribunal have been suspended to his detriment.
The Judge then indicated that the defendants should be patient and that the practice directions are almost complete and that they will surely address all of those issues that are being raised and that the directions will sufficiently guide the proceedings.
It was also indicated by the tribunal that the practice directions does not stop them from giving additional directions as the investigation progresses.
The matter was then adjourned for 2 weeks to the 21st April 2022 when the tribunal will give its directions. The State requested and was granted a four-week period within which they are to file their papers.
Justice Matturi-Jones JSC pleaded for patience and further explained that there is no precedent binding and guiding the tribunal but stated that they will be guided by rules of procedure and common sense.
She further explained that no one person has all the experience and most people if not all had never seen Section 137 of the Constitution in action, and that they take particular interest because it applies to judges as well.