Hon. Tawa is Representing the Interest of the People

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Hon. Tawa Conteh of Constituency 132

By Amin Kef Sesay

Many Sierra Leoneans have opined that the SLPP MP for Constituency 132 did nothing wrong in going public with his allegation that Parliament is itself non- transparent and non-accountable in the utilization of funds provided for its operations by the Ministry of Finance.

Hon. Tawa Conteh went public with his accusation after the House of Parliament failed to heed to his objection to the inclusion of a non-accountable daily foreign travel imprest for the President, Vice President and the Speaker of Parliament in the 2020 Finance Bill, which he and several other MPs on both sides of the aisle maintain has the possibility to open a flood gate of corruption by the Executive arm of Government.

The SLPP Publicity Secretary has not taken kindly to what he called anti-party activity by Hon. Tawa Conteh and wants him called to quarter deck by the SLPP authorities.

Most unfortunately, even though he is right in stating that Hon. Tawa Conteh must toe the party line, what he fails to realize is that in  democracies,  all  Members  of  Parliament  are  elected  by  groups  of  citizens  of  the  country. Thus, the  roles  that  parliamentarians  fulfil  are summarized  as  representatives,  legislators  and  scrutinizers  of  the  Government.

The  first  refers  to  the  fact  that  MPs  have  been  elected  to  Parliament  as  representatives  of  their  electorates.

The second reflects what most people see as the central responsibility of an MP, to pass legislation, whether original or changes to existing acts.

The third covers the scrutiny or oversight that  parliamentarians are expected  to  exercise  over  the  workings  of  the  Executive,  including  the  implementation  of  laws  passed  by  Parliament. This function also extends to the support or criticism of proposals placed before Parliament by the Government.

Questions  immediately  arise:  Who  does  the  MP  represent,  only  those  who  elected  him  or  also  those  who  opposed  his  election?  What if a piece of legislation proposed by the MP’s own party is contrary to the wishes of his electorate?

MPs will agree that they are representatives, not delegates of the people who elected them. They will try to exercise judgment on behalf of those they represent rather than subordinating their views to the party under whose ticket they entered parliament, on the premise that the interest of the greater good of the people exceeds any other consideration.

MPs  may  sometimes  find  themselves  not  willing  to  be  the  delegates  of  either  their  constituencies  or  their  political  parties, but wanting to take up a position that is their own and to vote according to their conscience on some issue. Parties do allow some latitude to their MPs in certain cases so that they may vote in this manner.

There   is   only one   restriction   that   all   Parliaments   place   upon   their   Members   as   to   representation  and  that  is  they  cannot  appear  before  the  House  or  in  a  parliamentary  committee  to  espouse  any  view  or  to  represent  any  individual,  group  or  organization for a fee or reward.

The SLPP Publicity Secretary needs to understand that in  all  law-making,  MPs  should  remember  that  the  citizens  whom  they  represent  want  transparency  and  accountability  to  be  built  into  all  laws,  to be able to follow what happens in Parliament and how their money is spent.

Thus, in his/her role as scrutinizer, the MP  has  several  opportunities  to  help  people  achieve  their  desire  for  effective,  accountable  Government.

When performing the role of scrutinizer, well-informed MPs can support or criticize draft legislation. If they are supportive of the proposal, they may  convince  the  people  at  large  and  fellow  MPs  of  the  necessity  for  a  particular  measure. They can, in theory, also criticize a weak or badly formulated bill to the extent that the sponsoring Minister may be forced to re-think it.

Very  often  the  whole  management  philosophy  of  a  department  or  enterprise  can be called into question by MPs who are willing to apply themselves to the necessary tasks.

Work  as  a  scrutinizer  enables  MPs  to  examine  whether  the  Government  has  correctly  used  the  funds  released  for  its  Parliamentary  operations.

The  reward  is  that  MPs  help  to  make  the  processes  of  Government more transparent and more accountable to the people who elected them.

 

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