When Sierra Leone President Julius Maada Bio suspended the Auditor General of the country, Lara Taylor-Pearce, a wave of shock emerged in the country upon the measure.
Reportedly, the Auditor General was about to unveil a damning account of Bio’s corruption in upcoming weeks, which drove the president to take this measure.
While Bio is often credited with the prosecution of corrupt elements within the country, this is far from true.
Sierra Leone’s first lady is heavily blanketed with corruption charges, along with some of the top ministers of the country; however, the president is often consumed by accounting for his political rivals.
Lara Taylor Was the Most Trusted Public Official of Sierra Leone
The suspension of Lara Taylor is considered to be the second most notorious constitutional practice committed by the country’s leadership.
The first one remains the sacking of Sierra Leone’s Vice President Samuel Sam-Sumana back by then-President Ernst Bai Koroma in 2015. It was widely observed as an overreach of the country’s leadership.
However, this time, the sacking of Taylor has once again repeated the episode of how far presidents will go to prosecute those who want to stand with their heads high in the country, challenging corrupt practices.
Suspending the Auditor General may surprise many due to the fact that the president has often touted the performance of the Auditor General, mostly to praise the institutions of his own government. For instance, the government labeled the department led by Taylor as the “most effective” department of the country.
Not only did Taylor have high respect in the government’s eye, but she also stood high in the eyes of the opposition, activists, and the general public.
This is because she did not hesitate to expose corruption within the government’s ranks, which helped her in making headlines.
Last year, for instance, she unveiled mammoth corruption in government ranks, which alarmed the government that she would go to any length in identifying corrupt practices in the country.
Digging deep, the suspension is unconstitutional to its core. For example, the constitution of the country outlines the procedure to remove a supreme court judge from office in Section 119 of the constitution. The interesting point is that the same procedure is applicable to remove any Auditor General of the country.
The provision clearly depicts the intention of the framers of the constitution to not give sweeping powers to the executive branch of the country.
Thus, the office of the auditor general is designed to be free from political influence in the country. Similarly, the constitution also outlines that an Auditor General can only be removed if he/she is involved in the negligence of the duties or is involved in any misconduct.
Taylor was not involved in any of these, which suggests that her removal is an extraconstitutional activity driven by political necessity.
Sierra Leone’s President: Defying the Constitution for his Own Agenda
In a Utopian Sierra Leone, the Judicial and Legal Service Commission (JLSC) led by the Chief Justice of the country must recommend to the president that the AG should be removed from the office. However, this practice was not followed in the case of Taylor.
A tribunal must recommend the removal of the AG, which has to be approved by a two-thirds majority of the parliament. This division of responsibility is established to avoid giving the president absolute powers.
While the government did make a tribunal to probe the so-called “misconduct” of Taylor, the tribunal was just symbolic to eyewash the citizens.
Whether it is the Institute of Governance Research or the members of the Budget Accountability Network, everyone has praised Taylor in one instance or another.
Some elements have even pointed out that the suspension would undermine public accountability, ultimately setting a precedent that the upcoming government can also initiate prosecution of public officials who try to unveil the wrongdoings of government.
Sierra Leone’s First Lady: Using Government’s Funds for Her Own Wrongdoings
The suspension should not come as a surprise to people, as the wife of the man who suspended the AG has all five fingers in the pool of corrupt practices.
The reports of the corrupt first lady surfaced a couple of years ago when she spent almost $780,000 of government funds for her personal shopping needs.
In addition, she was accused of bagging more than $3 million since her husband came to power.
Fatima Bio, the first lady, campaigned to curb child marriages in the country and to reduce rapes. Reportedly, more than 85% of funds never reached the deserving people. She tried to rob funds that were meant for these noble causes, but she ended up spending it for her own interests.
The United States has a big role to play in the reversal of these politically driven actions in Sierra Leone. This can be accomplished by creating an economic strain that would force the country to self-correct itself.
United States Must Step Up to Give the Suspended AG Justice
Currently, there are no major sanctions against Sierra Leone by the international community. The US previously had visa sanctions against the country imposed by Donald Trump when the country refused to receive deported individuals from the US.
However, under the Biden administration, those sanctions were removed. Now, if the US establishes an independent commission to study the removal of the Auditor General, it would surely reveal the integrity of Taylor.
Taylor’s ambitions against the corrupt elite deserve recognition, and if the US helps her reinstate her authority, she can do wonders in identifying and revealing the corrupt practices within the ruling elite.
First, the United States can increase tariffs on Sierra Leone’s imports to the United States, thereby straining the country’s economy. The bilateral trade volume of Sierra Leone and the United States is over $108 million; restrictions would incent the African nation to denounce corrupt practices.
Secondly, the United States can establish a commission of financial experts mandated to study the Auditor General’s annual report of the country. This would assist the US in envisioning that what type of wrongdoings are observed in the country.
Sierra Leone’s Auditor General’s removal was indeed an anti-constitutional practice. Now, instead of prosecuting the Auditor General, the judicial infrastructure of the country must hold the President accountable for breaching the constitution.
The new Auditor General must show the caliber to uphold the integrity of the department and follow the precedent set by Taylor.
Meanwhile, the United States must act immediately if it really wants to bring peace to Africa in the long run.
Supporting countries by continuously using USAID programs and other financial instruments is a short-term approach.
If the US can help these African countries stand on their own feet by introducing systematic reforms, the populus of African countries would be thankful to the superpower.
Eli is a Political Data Scientist with over thirty years of experience in Data Engineering, Analytics, and Digital Marketing. Eli uses his expertise to give the latest information and distinctive analysis on US Political News, US Foreign Affairs, Human Rights, and Racial Justice equipping readers with the inequivalent knowledge.