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A parliamentary scorecard released by Institute for Governance Reform (IGR) last week indicates that Sierra Leone Parliament recorded an increase in absenteeism of its members. The report reveals that nearly a quarter (24%) of Sierra Leone MPs (35) did not attend half of the 14 sittings between January and March 2022. This represents a 4% drop in attendance when compared to the last quarter of 2021 where 20% of MPs did not half of the sittings, according to the official attendance records published on the parliamentary website.
As stated in its maiden tracker, the purpose of monitoring MP performance is to increase legislators’ commitment to their representative duties and to strengthen the legislative process. According the scorecard, sitting should start at 10 a.m. and is mostly on Tuesdays and Thursdays. However, just as in the last quarter, Parliament rarely met on time, and we recorded an average late start of about 30 minutes for the quarter as the leadership waited to meet the 25%-member presence required to form a quorum.
The report also points out that for January 2022 all the three sittings started on time (10am prompt). For February, all the sittings started at 10.40am on average. Average start time in March was 10.28am.
THREE SITTINGS WITH THE HIGHEST ABSENTEEISM
• February 17th, 2022 – 88 MPs attended (58 MPs were absent) – 39.7%,
• March 15th, 2022 – 88 MPs attended (58 MPs were absent) – 39.7%
• March 24th, 2022 – 88 MPs attended (58 MPs were absent) – 39.7%.
MONITORING PERFORMANCE OF PARLIAMENTARY COMMITTEES
IGR also monitors the performance of the Parliamentary Committee and earlier this year, released a report on the enforcement of recommendations of the annual audit report of GoSL. In total, 2,655 audit recommendations were produced by the Audit Service Sierra Leone (ASSL) for all Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) and local councils for the period covering – 2015-2020. Only 38% of audit recommendations were enforced by MPs in the six years. The Committees on Transport and Aviation (60%); Foreign Affairs (46%); Public Works and Assets (45%); and Sports (45%) were high on enforcement of audit recommendations
The Media Reform Coordinating Group (MRCG) welcomes the Ministry of Defence (MOD) investigation into the allegations concerning the attack of journalist Maada Jessie Jengo of the Voice of Peace and Development (VOPAD) radio by soldiers of the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF).
In a press release issued on 8 July 2022, the Office of the Directorate of Defence, Public Relations and Information states that “the MOD regrets the unfortunate occurrence which does not represent the RSLAF core values of good discipline and selfless service.” The MOD notes that its attention was drawn to the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) press release of 4 July 2022 reporting the alleged assault of the journalist. The MOD release notes that “the soldiers have been identified and an investigation into the allegations is ongoing in accordance with military procedures.” The MOD assured SLAJ of RSLAF’s commitment for mutual cooperation and cordial relationship in the discharge of their duties.
Meanwhile, the MRCG also welcomes the move by the Clerk of Sierra Leone’s Parliament to constitute a committee to investigate an alleged ‘physical assault’ on journalist AbdulaiGbla and make recommendations. The MRCG is also delighted that even before the committee commences investigation, the Clerk of Parliament according to a press release issued by SLAJ had apologized to Mr. Gbla. The MRCG in its monthly Media Freedom Review has been following the matter. Abdulai Gbla, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Gbla TV Online on 28 June 2022 wrote a letter of complaint to the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) regarding an alleged ‘physical assault’ on him by a Member of Parliament (MP), Hon. Abdul Muniru Lansana of Constituency 121. Hon. Abdul Muniru Lansana in response told the MRCG that he ‘did not assault’ the journalist as he had alleged, but rather ‘hit his phone to stop filming the incident’ after he had previously asked the journalists not to film since the parliamentary sitting had been adjourned.
The MRCG commends the actions of the MOD and the Sierra Leone Parliament to investigate the matters, and looks forward to speedy investigations. It particularly notes the interventions of SLAJ into the matters and views the steps taken by the institutions as indicative of the fact that the culture of impunity is no longer tolerated in a democratic society like Sierra Leone where the rule of must prevail.
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