16th December 2018
The Deputy Speaker of Parliament Accused of Maligning the Ongoing Passports Contract!
By Ranger (23/11/18)
Sierra Leone parliamentarians on both sides of the aisle have expressed grave disappointment in the acting Speaker of Parliament.
Against the finest principles of democracy, that the majority carries the vote, in pursuit of what many have insinuated was his personal interest, the acting Speaker of the House, Sengehpor Solomon Thomas (photo), blatantly set aside the votes of the majority of the Members of Parliament as they voted against the said annulment.
The entire episode, which MPs described as a façade and an embarrassment to the SLPP government of President Julius Maada Bio, has to do with a private member motion that was tabled before the House on Friday 9th November 2018, calling for the annulment of the 2015 Passport contract that was awarded to Net Page Biometric printing to publish Sierra Leone passports.
It was understood by this press that some SLPP MPs are alleged to have negotiated with an Austrian passport printing company to print Sierra Leone passport at a lesser cost than the current operating value in a bid to satisfy their selfish desires.
According to APC MP that has been in parliament since 2007, the bill introduced in parliament for the passport contract to be terminated was a private member bill, which in his view, contravened certain provisions in the Standing Orders of parliament (with particular reference to SO 46). Therefore, he said that if it has to be annulled, the bill must have been tabled by a Minister or his Deputy.
Secondly, APC MPs cautioned the acting Speaker that the original passport contract makes provision for review with the contractor, which clause was not activated, which makes an annulment illegal.
During an interview with a seasoned member of parliament, he said that before a bill is tabled in parliament, the Clerk of Parliament should issue 7 days notice to all MPs so that they can go through the document before it is tabled for debate in the House.
The haste and non-procedural manner in which the motion was presented to the House without the formal 7 days’ notice to MPs, another APC MP said smacks of deceit.
What the APC MPs said is fishy about the motion to annul the passport contract is that once the motion had been tabled, instead of the acting Speaker calling for a debate on it, he simply moved to call for a vote on it.
This did not go down well with even SLPP MPs, who refrained from voting on the motion and walked out of the chamber. At that, those in support of the motion received only 4 ‘ayes’.
Surprisingly and uncharacteristically, the acting Speaker declared that the motion stands. This threw the House into uproar. It took the intervention of the Paramount Chiefs to settle the brouhaha in the office of the Speaker.
APC MPs maintained that although it is the Speaker that has the final say in Parliament, his judgement must be guided by rules. In this case, they alleged that the acting Speaker abused the rules of consensus building.
Embarrassingly, after a compromise was reached, the acting Speaker returned to the well to announce that the motion had been deferred. What should be understood is that the standoff in parliament on Friday was not one between SLPP and APC MPs but one between MPs and the acting Speaker.
Many Sierra Leoneans who watched the proceedings live on TV said they felt ashamed that Sierra Leone’s House of Parliament had descended to the level of a charade.
Reports sat the reason why the Deputy Speaker who doubles as acting Speaker according to some of his colleagues, showed so much interest in the motion was because money to the tune of $80,000 from an interested party based in Austria, with more to be collected if the deal goes through, has allegedly changed hands.
Meanwhile, President Bio, who has always said he will rule the country transparently and accountably is reportedly not happy about the passport episode in parliament.