By S. U. Thoronka………………
During the debate on the Ebola Audit Report presented to Parliament by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), a good number of MPs praised the Government of Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma for instituting an enquiry into how the Ebola fund was managed by the Ministry of Health and Sanitation under the erstwhile Minister Miata Kargbo and her team of technocrats.
Each and every speaker who rose to contribute to the debate praised the Public Accounts Committee PAC for what they referred to as a work well done. According to Hon. Paran Tarawally of Bo District “It is a powerful report because it lends credence to the Auditor General’s Report”.
But ironically certain portions of the report were criticised more so the recommendation to punish only three officials which was considered by Hon. Tarawally and others as selective.
Hon. Foday Rado Yokie of Bo District in his contribution to the debate suggested that the Ebola audit net should be widened to capture more fish and that anyone found wanting and not just the selected three should be punished because it is the tax-payer’s money.
Quoting from the President’s speech, Hon. Yokie said His Excellency categorical stated that anyone not some who embezzles the Ebola funds should be punished. According to Hon. Rado Yokie it seems as if the goal post has been shifted to an extent that only South-Easterners were targeted. He therefore suggested that the punitive measures recommended by the PAC be revisited.
Honourable Rado Yokie in his defense said he saw no reason why the Procurement Officer in the Ministry of Health who was not part of the ‘ad hoc’ Committee that was set up to carry out procurement functions should be punished, leaving out Dr. Brima Kargbo, Kawusu Kebe, Miata Kargbo and others. According to him a thief is a thief no matter what, and those that have embezzled were neither APC nor SLPP.
Honourable Isata Kabia of Port Loko District, who did not subscribe to the issue of selective decision, stated in no uncertain terms that the emergency during the Ebola outbreak was not an excuse for people to embezzle state funds. She said Parliament should act tough adding that Parliament should not be seen as a rubber stamped institution.
Honourable Ibrahim R. Bundu of Port Loko District in his contribution informed Parliament that the PAC report was neither selective nor meant to target South-Easterners as stated by the opposition. According to Hon. Bundu, it only happened that those involved in the act were the only officials working in the Ministry found culpable. He said the Committee only probed those who bear the greatest responsibility.
The Chairman of the PAC, Honourable Chernor Bah said the PAC was established by the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone with a clear mandate on its function and that the Committee will not go beyond its prescribed mandate.
In addressing the issue of loan, Hon. Bah said the common understanding of loan is that when one obtains loan it should be paid back.
In the case of Charles Mambu, Hon. Bah said the former requested for a loan and instead of paying the amount into the organization’s account the money was paid into his personal account.
By S. U. Thoronka………………