Sierra Leone’s President Julius Maada Bio has rejected the controversial 2020 Finance Act which proposed an open cheque for him, his vice president and the speaker of parliament for international per diem spending.
The bill passed by parliament about two weeks ago exempted the president, VP and Speaker from accounting for whatever money they spend when traveling abroad. Civil society groups and the government’s critics condemned the parliament’s action and called on the president to not sign it into official law.
On Tuesday, 26 November 2019, President Bio surprised many when a State House release indicated he had done exactly that. The statement signed by Press Secretary and Presidential Spokesman, Yusuf Keketoma Sandi, said the president felt the proposed law went against his idea of accountability and prudent spending.
“The President has perused the document and has expressed grave concern over the open-endedness of the ‘non-accountable imprest’, as provided for in the said Act. He is of the view that this is prone to improper use of public funds,” the statement reads.
It adds: “The President has an unwavering commitment to democratic accountability, transparent governance and prudent management of public funds.”
The issue had already caused a serious friction between parliament and the public, especially after two top officials in the House had a public spat which provoked concerns of corruption in the parliament.
The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has since said it had instituted an investigation into the activities of the Parliament after its clerk, Paran Umar Tarawally, and a ruling party MP, Ibrahim Tawa Conteh, made accusations and counter-accusations of corruption in the House during a live radio debate.
Both men are members of the ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), and Conteh was the only MP who openly spoke against the bill during a debate on it. The clerk apparently felt angered by this and took on the MP.
With President Bio’s rejection, the bill is reported to have been returned to parliament for amendment.