Members of Parliament yesterday 17th December 2019, unanimously voted in support of a motion to withhold the 2020 Financial Year budget of the Local Government and Rural Development Ministry. The motion was raised by Honourable Musa Fofanah whose reason for the motion was insubordination to Parliament. The total vote request of the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development is Le 4,395,890,700.00 (four billion, three hundred and ninety-five million, seven hundred thousand Leones). The Honourable Member who is also the Chairman of the Committee on Local Government, Hon Musa Fofanah stood on a point of order when the Chairman responsible for the Sub-appropriation Committee 4, Hon Alusine Kanneh was about to table their Report on the recurrent and development budget estimate for the financial year 2020. Honourable Fofanah maintained that after taking over the Committee on the second session of the fifth Parliament, they received report from their successors relating to issues that had to do with the previous Minister which they were unable to handle. He disclosed that based on that his new Committee tried to manage things with the current Minister, Deputy and the Permanent Secretary, but what came out clearly was that it seems they don’t want to treat the work of the Committee with the seriousness it deserved.
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Hon Fofanah disclosed that the Ministry received funds for the review of the 2004 Local Government Act but refused to take the agreement to Parliament for ratification, and neither did they inform the Committee on Local Government. He furthered that the Ministry was also moving around the country doing consultation without the knowledge of the Committee which will be defending the Bill when it is before the house. “One of the major issue that we have with the Ministry has to do with the frequent transfer of Chief Administrators which is creating serious problems with the Transparency Committee in Parliament and other Committees that have to do with investigations into the activities of the Council,” he said. According to him most of the suspension that took place where done when the Local Government Service Commission was not properly constituted and most of the suspended Chief Administrators have been on suspension for more than two years seven months but still receiving salaries. He disclosed that as a Parliament they have the responsibility to ensure that the Commission bring those people into office rather than undermining the smooth operations of Government, assuring that they as a Committee have moved round the country and have come across so many issues in the various Local Council. Hon Fofanah expressed optimism that President Julius Maada Bio will not overrule his Motion as what they are doing as a Parliament is in the interest of good governance and discipline. He disclosed that they as Parliament have received a lot of petitions regarding most of the just concluded Paramount Chiefs elections across the country which they intend to address with the Local Government Ministry but they have been reluctant to show up. The Chairman of the Local Government Committee then moved a Motion for the budget of the Ministry to be put on hold until some form of respect is shown to Parliament. The Chairman of the Finance Committee, Hon Francis Kaisamba maintained they are the body responsible for making laws and they should not be violators to the law. He however agreed that Parliament is supposed to be over seeing MDA’s, noting that if an MDA flouts a summon they will hold the MDA for contempt as provided for by the Constitution and the Standing Order. Hon Kaisamba maintained if the MDA presented all documents while defending their budget and all required authorities, then he does not think the decision sought by the Chairman of the Local Government Committee is appropriate. He calling on him to put his motion on hold and look for some other means to handle the Ministry. The Leader of the Coalition for Change in Parliament, Hon Saa Emerson Lamina, also said other punitive measures can be used in handling the Ministry rather than withholding their entire 2020 budget which will definitely put the operations of the Ministry to halt. With this, the Speaker of Parliament, Hon Abass Bundu called on the mover of the Motion, Hon Musa Fofanah and the Political Parties Leadership for a short meeting up his chamber, after which the mover of the Motion was asked to move his motion which was seconded by Hon Lahai Marah.
By Alhaji Manika Kamara
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