A front-page headline in one of the local tabloids titled: “Chief Minister Celebrates Parliament for…” caught the eyes of The Calabash, a news medium that likes to comment on the crucial role Parliament is supposed to play in holding the Executive arm of Government accountable for the annual policy statements it makes to the nation; as well as the role of scrutinizing properly how MDAs utilize annual budgetary allocations made to them which the Audit Service Sierra Leone has consistently, over the last fifteen years, reported is not been diligently done by the Parliamentary Accounts Committee; followed by disciplinary action, as prescribed by law, taken against defaulters in ensuring good governance.
No doubt, a responsible Parliament which rises up to its role of ensuring public transparency and accountability is an indispensable adjunct of proper public financial management, without which a developing nation with limited financial resources will find it hard to not only provide its citizens with basic public amenities and services but also to undertake development activities from home generated funds.
As such whilst institutions like ASSL and ACC can do their bit in the fight against corruption which is the biggest stumbling block to development, the fight will only be effective and deterrent when Parliament follows up on the ASSL annual findings of malfeasance and cooperates fully with ACC and the Judiciary to ensure that no stone is left unturned to retrieve misappropriated public funds.
But then the question is: how really transparent and accountable Parliament itself had been to the people that elected them?
Sometime this year, the nation was taken aback when, without consultation with the people that elected them, amidst the excruciating financial hardships that the masses face, MPs unanimously agreed to give themselves fantastic pay and allowance increases without any consideration of asking Government to do likewise for the public sector. Transparency and accountability of Parliament implies first and foremost that MPs remain in touch with the people that elected them to represent them and to articulate their wishes and expectations and to take them to the Government and to take the feedback from Government back to their people? How many MPs maintain constituency offices where on a regular basis they meet constituency Executives to discuss matters pertinent to the people?
The complaint of many constituents is that the majority of their MPs only know they exist and are important when elections come. Other than that, the people say they hardly see their MPs, not to talk of interacting with them. So for the people who elect Parliamentarians, this is first and foremost the transparency and accountability they want from Parliament.