By Brima Sannoh
In a Press Release from the Office of the Press Secretary and Presidential Spokesman dated 26th November 2019, it was categorically stated that His Excellency President Dr. Julius Maada Bio has returned the Finance Bill 2020 to Parliament unsigned following a Minute Paper dated Friday 22nd November 2019 from the Clerk of Parliament requesting the President’s gracious assent for the said Bill, pursuant to Part V, Section 106 (1) of the Constitution of Sierra Leone, 1991(Act No.6 of 1991).
The Release further stated that pursuant to Part V, Section 106(7), in the Memorandum, the Secretary to the President gave the reason for the refusal of the signature of the President which is : “His Excellency the President has perused the document and has expressed grave concern over the open-endedness of the ‘non-accountable imprest’, as provided for in the said Act. He is of the view that this is prone to improper use of public funds”.
“Therefore, to address the carte blanche provision of Section 42, His Excellency the President has proposed to Parliament that Section 42(6) be amended so that it makes provision for a ceiling for the non-accountable imprest,” the Release contains.
It pointed out that unlike the past; the fact that Parliament and members of the public are now discussing Presidential imprest, demonstrates the President’s avowed stance on transparency. “If amended by Parliament, imprest of such nature and the proposed ceiling will now be guided by law. Members of the public are reassured that His Excellency the President has an unwavering commitment to democratic accountability, transparent governance and prudent management of public funds,” the Press Release ends.
It will be recalled that in the wake of trying to make legal the open-endedness of the ‘non-accountable imprest’ there was a condemnation on the part of some sections of the public that it will not be transparent and financially prudent for such to come into being.
This latest move on the part of President Bio has been widely commended as a right move in the right direction, as such will somehow lay to rest the heated debate over the issue.