I sometimes wonder how many people read the articles we write in newspapers. It used to be in vogue for offices to buy newspapers every work day, but that practice seems to be dwindling. An oldie goodie song says: Live for yourself, you live in vain, live for others, you live again.” In the Book The Elements of Writing, by James L Kenney and John E Warriner states several reasons why people write. Some of these are: Some people write to express themselves, to get to know themselves, to find meaning in their lives. Another set of people write to share information, to give other people information that they need or want, to share some special knowledge. Other people write to persuade; to convince other people to do something. A last set of people write to create literature, to be creative, to say something in a unique way.
Well I am writing this piece to point out how the money factor can be that crucial for our upcoming elections. Let us begin with the legal framework for political party funding.
Section 34 of the Sierra Leone constitution which deals with the registration and conduct of political parties. In section 35, it says that Political parties may be established to participate in shaping the political will of the people, to disseminate information on political ideas…and to sponsor candidates for Presidential, Parliamentary and local Government elections.
Parliament may very soon discuss the new candidature fees. The first document tabled was thrown out because; according to Parliament it was incomplete especially as it did not include the fees for paramount chief members of Parliament.
In the 2012 elections, candidature fees became a big issue as NEC rather unilaterally revised the fees upwards to the annoyance of both Parliament and political parties. This time round the fees have been revised downwards and being taken through due process.
Section 19 of the political parties act talks about the funding of Political parties. In Sub-section (1) it clearly states that the source of funds of a political party shall be limited to contributions or donations, whether in cash or kind, of persons who are entitled to be registerered as voters in Sierra Leone. It further states in subsection (2) that regulations made by the Commission may provide for limits on the amount of contribution or donation to a political party and the disclosure of information that may limit the influence of money in the political process. The political Parties registration commission is supposed to publish in the gazette, the political parties’ declaration of the assets, expenditures and liabilities.
For all we know this is not closely followed. The recent case of the APC’s construction of a seven-floor building is a case in point. That party had gone on radio to say that the Chinese were funding them to build that edifice. Mohamed Kamaraimba took the issue up and alerted the PPRC. When approached by the PPRC after public outcry on the media the APC produced documents showing otherwise and the PPRC was satisfied. The matter was closed and you can now see that building going up with steady speed. I can tell you for free that whenever any of the two big parties are in governance, our institutions which are meant to regulate them, never sum up the guts to do so.
Why our institutions find it to have the courage to do their jobs without fear or favor is anybody’s guess in this our staggering republic. By now as sierra Leoneans we must have noticed the near powerlessness of the PPRC and indeed they continue to say that they have no prosecutorial powers. Sometimes some political parties even challenge the openly.
I think the root of all the problems we have with our institutions not functioning well perhaps is the fact that all these Commissions are appointed by the President and the parliament merely does the usual rubber stamping. The powers of the presidency will be dealt with in another piece. The law is at least not equivocal on political parties’ accountability. In Section 25 of the Political Party’s Act, it says in Sub-section 1: “ Every political party shall maintain at its head or national office an accurate and permanent record of the following; (a) a list of its membership, including the Founding members and executive members thereof; (b) any contribution whether in cash or in kind made by the founding members of the party; a statement of its accounts, showing the sources of its funds and the name of any person who had contributed to the funds, membership dues paid, donations in cash or kind and all the financial transactions of the political party which are conducted through, by or with the head or national office of the party; (d) any property that belongs to the political party and the time and mode of acquisition of the property; and (e) such other particulars as the Commission may reseanably require with respect to the matters referred to …”
Even with all these laws in the books, our political parties, especially incumbents do a blatantly vulgar display of wealth to extent of even throwing raw cash at people during campaigns in full view of elections observers. If you move around the city you see all over the place expensive posters of Flag Bearer candidates; I understand the APC has hit the 25 candidate march!
What we need to ponder on is why no party has so far ever been penalized for violated the rules especially those on financial probity. In section 27 (1) of the Political Parties Act,”…. the Commission may apply to the Supreme Court for an order to cancel the registration of any political party…” if that party violates any portion of the constitution or the Act, including the submission of any declaration that is false. The PPRC has never applied for any party to be de-registered. Hmm you might be guessing the verdict of the Supreme Court. We saw the case of the sacking of the previous Vice President with impunity.
You see any country that has a demented judicial system may have a long road to democracy and good governance. Just check out what is happening from the Law degree courses to the Law School down town and the Courts. Nobody can be easily proud of them. Maybe this is why the PPRC does not want to bark, bite or fight. If the cost of politics is high, definitely even the judiciary will be corrupt.
By Ben Cambayma
Tuesday October 10, 2017.