Society for Democratic Initiatives, Sierra Leone (SDI)
Freetown, Sierra Leone, 21st October 2008
SDI on Commission of Inquiry
Society for Democratic Initiatives, Sierra Leone (SDI) welcomes the formation of a Commission of Inquiry, which commenced operations on Monday 21st October at the Miatta Conference Hall, to investigate past government officials, and put an end into the culture of impunity.
SDI views this move by the government as a laudable venture, in bringing about sanity in the country’s public service and in an effort to address the issue of corruption.
This is so especially, given the premium that this government, and especially the office of the president has put, on curbing the culture of impunity of corruption
SDI also reechoes and understands the concerns raised by the Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP), regarding the establishment of the commission of inquiry. The concern that the commission should not be used as a political instrument or a matter of witch hunt against former and aspiring SLPP members. However, a mechanism like a Commission of Inquiry is necessary to probe wrong doings. If the SLPP is satisfied with their performance during their days in power, then they should allow the commission to work, and also subject themselves to the due process.
SDI is similarly very concern about how the Commission of Inquiry would work, especially given the existence of the Anti Corruption Commission, that is responsible to fight corruption, and considering the enormity of both financial and human resources that have been invested into strengthening the ACC. The concern is how the ACC and the Commission of Enquiry operate side by side? How retributive and restorative transparency mechanism could work together without one overshadowing and affecting the other. A better institution – between the ACC and the Commission of Inquiry- for combating corruption is always the ACC and the Commission of Inquiry. Reverting to history would inform us that commissions of inquiries have been very less successful in checkmating official mishaps. The findings and recommendations of most commissions of enquire have been left to rot on shelf of previous governments. Worse, from the Beakus Bett Commission of Inquiry to Bekus Davis Commission of Inquiry, punishments imposed by commissions of Inquiries have been pardon on political grounds. Thus undermining and efficacy a commission of Enquiry might have in the Sierra Leone context.
SDI is also concerned about the open-ended nature of the life span of the Commission of Inquiry. SDI believes that such commission should have a time that would guide the process and be completed within the required time. It is hoped that the Commission of Inquiry will go by its honest and intended purpose, and that it would be allowed to work in a free and fair atmosphere, and won’t be used as an instrument for political witch-hunt.
SDI is further hopeful that the newly instituted Commission of Inquiry will not end up deviating government’s attention from that of addressing other pressing national issues, to looking at what happened during the era of the recent past government.
Also, it is hoped that, the Commission of Inquiry will not further divide the country along political and tribal lines, considering the bi-polar politics of the country. SDI calls on all those concern to go by the dictates of the law.
Also, the entire episode brings into play the need for an access to information law in the country. With an entrenched open society and transparent mechanisms like a Freedom Of Information Law in operations in the country, the for an institution of a commission of enquiry would not have arose this would have safe the country from using limited state resources to investigate past officials at the expense of other serious issues.
A Freedom of Information Bill would have helped entrenching transparency and accountability; would serve as a check on corruption in public offices; create and participatory democracy and enhance democracy and the development process.