The Mayor of Kono’s City Council and few others have been suspended by the Minister of Local Government. This is quite a simple matter that Opposition news outlets like MAMBA-TV and sly unscrupulous elements like Umaru Fofana the journalist, are trying to make appear complicated. There is nothing illegal that has been done. No-one has been removed from Office. No one has assumed the functions of the Council in question. What has happened is a simple suspension of a handful of officials.
The Mayor of Kono’s Koidu New Sembehun City Council copied a letter to Local Government Ministry in which he claims that his Council’s Finance Officer is basically a thief.
The Finance Officer has also written to Local Government Ministry that the Mayor and Deputy Mayor are the real thieves.
What is clear from an initial Audit is that brazen thievery is going on at that Council in Kono and such thievery is hampering the council’s adequate performance.
Under the below-mentioned sections of our laws, the Ministry has therefore intervened by suspending the Mayor, his Deputy and the Finance Officer to allow an unimpeded investigation into the allegations and counter-allegations of thievery.
Sierra Leone Local Government Act No. 1 of 2004.
PART XIV-RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE MINISTRY
97.(1): The Ministry shall inspect and monitor the activities of every local council to ensure that it acts within the scope of this Act or any other relevant enactment.
97.(4)(C): If the Ministry finds that a local council is not performing adequately within its areas of responsibility, it shall decide the type of action or intervention that is needed.
WHY SEEK EXECUTIVE CLEARANCE?
Now according to Section 62 of current Sierra Leone Constitution, “Where any Minister has been charged with responsibility for any department of Government, he shall exercise general direction and control over that department”.
Many are now saying if the Minister already had the constitutional authority to suspend, then why write for the President’s blessings to suspend the said officials?
Before handling this, let us recall of how we have had scenarios in the past where Cabinet ministers take correct decisions in their ministries only for the decisions to be later publicly overturned by the sitting President.
This is because Sierra Leone 1991 Constitution basically says supreme power belongs to ONLY the President and the President is merely loaning power to his Vice President and Cabinet Ministers but he can singlehandedly overturn their decisions.
Section 56(5) says: “the Vice-President and the other Ministers under the direction of the President shall be responsible for such departments of State or other business of the Government as the President may assign to them.”
However, AND THIS IS THE POIGNANT PART, in the subsequent Subsection 56(6), it says: “Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection 56(5), the President shall be responsible for such departments of State, including the Commissions established under this Constitution, as he may determine.”
This is why when ministers sometimes take decisions, the President will overturn their decisions as he sees fit. We have seen this happen a few times - most recent ones were with the Sports minister.
So an astute minister who wants to take a decision that might prove controversial, will first seek the blessings of his/her boss, His Excellency the President, by requesting for the presidential approval known as Executive Clearance.
In such a case, the President will not only have given his blessings but will actually be part of such a decision no matter how controversial. In the process, the maximum possible weight is given to the decision of the Minister.
This could be the reason why the Local Government Minister sought and received clearance from the President. It is not that the minister does not already have the power to suspend the Mayor. It is simply that the minister recognises the need to put the additional weight of the President behind the decision.
Bottomline, the decision is legal and constitutional.