By Amin Kef (Ranger)
In a significant development, the Deputy Clerk of Parliament, Mohamed Lebbie, has assumed the role of Clerk of Parliament until further notice, as the embittered Hon. Paran Tarawallie has stepped aside amid ongoing corruption investigation by the Anti-Corruption Commission into issues bordering on irregularities in the recruitment process involving his wife and the redundancy process of over hundred parliamentary staff.
As for now it is certain that the former substantive Clerk of Parliament, Hon. Umar Paran Tarawally, has stepped aside due to corruption allegations which runs contrary to an earlier statement made by the ACC Commissioner, Francis Ben Kaifala, that it is only the Court of Law that has the power to ask him to step aside and not the ACC as was purported by some.
Meanwhile, Hon. Dr. Abass Chernor Bundu, the Right Honourable Speaker of Parliament, on Thursday, January 25, 2024, in addressing the nation, elucidated Parliament’s stance in the wake of recent revelations of conflicts of interest, embezzlement, and corruption within the administration.
The Speaker, who had previously confirmed the said allegations on social media, sought forgiveness from the Sierra Leonean public, expressing collective regrets and assuring that such mistakes would not be repeated.
In a statement explaining Parliament’s position, Dr. Abass Bundu acknowledged the lapses in the dignity and decorum of the legislative body, emphasizing the need for MPs to apologize to the citizens for breaching their trust. The apology followed a meeting between the ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party’s Members of Parliament leadership and President Julius Maada Bio, who assured them of addressing the issues within Parliament.
Dr. Abass Chernor Bundu commenced his address by extending New Year wishes to Parliament members and delving into the challenges faced. He lamented that the Parliament’s reputation suffered due to a perceived decline in dignity and decorum, resulting in public criticism and denigration.
The Speaker acknowledged the ongoing investigation by the Anti-Corruption Commission into the Clerk of Parliament, advising restraint in discussing the matter until the investigation concludes. Regarding himself, Dr. Abass Bundu attempted to clarify misconceptions, likening his role to that of a referee in a soccer game, emphasizing the importance of impartiality.
Addressing accusations on social media, the Speaker refuted claims of being a predator and filed complaints with the Police and the Independent Media Commission. He clarified the accessibility of his office, dispelling fears of secrecy and urging MPs, especially women, not to hesitate in seeking guidance.
Dr. Abass Bundu emphasized the harmonious working relationship between the Speaker and the Clerk of Parliament, dismissing rumors of discord. He reiterated their joint responsibility within the Parliamentary Commission, with the Speaker bearing ultimate responsibility for the entire Parliament.
As Sierra Leone grapples with the aftermath of this parliamentary scandal, the nation awaits further developments and reforms promised by the Speaker to restore trust and confidence in the legislative body.