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BIG CONSTITUTIONAL ISSUES: “PROTECTED OFFICES”- THE HEAD AND TAIL OF PROTECTED OFFICES

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BIG CONSTITUTIONAL ISSUES: “PROTECTED OFFICES”- THE HEAD AND TAIL OF PROTECTED OFFICES

By Shorenke Sawyerr……….

Protected offices have the holder’s tenure secured. The laws of Sierra Leone: constitution and other legislations establish many such offices. They do so usually because the holders have professional and or public sensitive duties which need to be performed without fear of political pressure or public sentiment. The holder must never be afraid to think that his decision one way or the other may result in the loss of his job. The law usually fixes the tenure in a protected office using a term of years, the official’s age or a defining event.

Some public officials who have protected tenure are Judges, Election Commissioners, Auditor General, Solicitor General, Accountant General and The DPP. Tenure is usually secured not only by the fact of the period in office being guaranteed but also by a special procedure being provided for premature removal as well as an assurance that the holder of the office will not have his emoluments, pay and other work rewards adjusted to his disadvantage whist he remains in office.

Protected tenure should be respected as it is an important safe guard to the rights and liberties of the people. A protected official must stay in office notwithstanding government change. A new President is stuck with the protected officers he meets in place. It is like a valuable coin and one cannot take the coin but deny owning both of its sides-head and tail.

On the head side the holder of the protected office is guaranteed stay in the office for as long as the law permits. In that period the holder of the office must do his job with a free mind never fearing in the least that he can be removed from office except for his own misconduct and or abuse of office (and not even then but only after due process). Similarly and on this same side the people whose representatives would have screened this officer find assurance that at all times the protected officer will deliver his very best without fear or favour. They ought to be assured by the protected tenure that whatsoever he (the official) does he will do according to his own conscience and on the guidance of the best professional standards and expectations The very same standards of professionalism and integrity which he must have initially exhibited and which would have persuaded his first appointment by the appointing officer and the subsequent ratification of such an appointment by parliament.

On the tail side the holder of the protected office must respect the end date of his tenure. He must not seek to extend his stay in office. He must obey the law which maintained him in office and guaranteed his unhindered functioning when it now dictates he must go: as much as he respected it when it protected his stay. Obeying the law in a round and complete manner entrenches the rule of law. Disobeying parts of the law merely demonstrates and helps perpetuate the possibility of impunity. The holder of a protected office who stays longer than his tenure ceases to serve the people. He now serves those whose manipulation makes it possible for him to stay in office. He knows full well that his continued stay lies with them and their ability to further manipulate for him to stay on still. His decisions can no longer be expected to be conscience bound nor can the people be assured of his professionalism. His office is one that requires a protected tenure and if he now holds the office without the protected tenure it must follow that the office has lost its integrity and the holder cannot function at his best.

It’s not only politicians who seek ill advised extensions of their stay in office. It is a syndrome which may be rife throughout the African Society and it may well be that politicians who seek a further term where the law says “NO” are merely attempting to do that which they see being done elsewhere in the public service. They may merely be calling-in from the people a favour which the politicians may have done for many. Judges, Commissioners, and other persons in protected office: “When your time is up -please go”. Don’t wait to be asked.

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