By Amin Kef Sesay
The Audit Report on use of the country’s monies from 2015 to 2018 paints a very unflattering picture of alarming misuse of public funds by those they are entrusted to for provision of the basic essential goods and services the citizenry needs to improve on the standard of living.
Anyway we look at it Parliament bares the greatest responsibility for corruption and bad governance in any democratic system of Government if it fails to perform properly and diligently the all-important role of keeping the Executive arm of Government under control.
It is apparent that Parliament that is supposed to hold Government to account, defend the interests of ordinary people and make policy, has been impotent in the face of our Executive Presidents.
In order to be able to be in a command position to help the Executive arm of Government push forward robustly and sustainably the country’s development agenda, it is time for Parliament to frame concrete policy actions to improve Parliament’s oversight of the Executive and independence from the governing party and the President as over the years.
No gainsaying that, an independent and effective Parliament, which allows for maximum participation of ordinary citizens and which holds leaders accountable is essential for democratic governance.
As such, as the institution elected by the people to oversee the affairs of the State on behalf of the nation, one wants to ask: how responsibly, conscientious and committed has the House of Parliament been in ensuring that the findings and recommendations made by the Auditor General’s office to MDAs are religiously followed in order to prevent the huge misuse of public funds that the audit reveals every year?
If Parliament has not got the integrity, honesty and competence to perform its numerous oversight functions diligently and effectively, the country’s development ambition will always falter on the rocks of incompetence, cronyism, corruption and self-interests as against that of the general good.
The President, the Judiciary and all top State functionaries would be more accountable when Parliament adequately scrutinizes laws, policies and decisions. But with the President and Executive dominating Parliament, the institution has been unable to do so effectively, as most times they only rubber-stamp Executive decisions.
Parliament, both in terms of its composition and its structure has proved incapable of providing robust oversight of State institutions as it has poorly developed offices, structures and Committees. See for example what has come out about the mining sector, now that the Parliamentary Committee has risen up to its oversight function.
To check the excessive powers of the President under the country’s 1991 Constitution, appointment of the heads of democratic, constitutional and State institutions should be removed from the President and given to Parliament.
Speaker of Parliament, Heads of Public Accounts Committees and other significant offices should ideally be appointed from opposition party ranks.
The power of Parliament to hold the Executive to account can also be measured in whether the Parliament has the power to scrutinize and reject national budgets drawn up by the Executive.
Parliamentary staffs are part of the public service. It is better for Parliament to create a parliamentary service separate from the public service.
And to maintain its independence, key parliamentary staff must not be appointed by the governing party. It is important that parliamentary staff is appointed on merit, to be non-partisan and professional.
Human rights abuses are still committed with impunity by various State institutions supposed to guard, protect and promote them.
Parliament, as par the constitution, has the duty of ensuring that we live in a rights-based society.
It must ensure that the Government protects fundamental human rights of citizens by ensuring that the Government adheres to equal rights and opportunities for all citizens, regardless of ethnicity, religion, political affiliation or closeness to the leader.
In conclusion, by effectively holding Parliament to account, civil society, the media and democratic activists can go a long way to strengthen its capacity to hold the President, leaders of MDAs and the Government responsible and accountable.