BY: Winstanley R. Bankole Johnson
The last few weeks have heralded a series of scathing, besmirching and wholesomely puerile media outbursts directed more particularly against the Auditor General Mrs. Lara Taylor-Pearce in particular, than the institution (Audit Services Sierra Leone – ASSL) from which she draws authority to perform her constitutional role. And those denigrating outbursts were not on account of her performing below par, but simply because in an environment where everyone and everything is compromised, Mrs. Lara Taylor-Pearce and team she have opted – true to the demands of their calling – to keep their integrity unsullied and far above the external advantages of fortune. But this is Sierra Leone for you; The Land we purport to love.
Do I hear loud voices heckling ridiculous reasons for my wading into the Taylor-Pearce fray? Who cares? If no one branded the passionate blindness with which the entire Kenema Township defensively rallied behind the Chief Minister Prof. David Francis in the face of glaring and incontrovertible insinuations of corruption against him to date as nepotism and tribalism, then no one should insinuate same against me if as a relation, I chose to rally national support for Mrs. Lara Taylor-Pearce (Nee Cline-Cole) for several cogent reasons.
Unlike in the case of the Chief Minister against whom allegations including Money Laundering were inferred (and still unsatisfactorily explained away), the Auditor General is being bad-mouthed mainly by pro-government Tabloids (some of which are even calling for her immediate sacking) for refusing to compromise integrity and for strenuously safeguarding government’s (and by extension citizens’) funds.
A recent Global Times Editorial outcry for Mrs. Taylor-Pearce’s sacking was so infantile that they ended up exposing themselves as perverts of accountability and purveyors of hate. In that editorial they emerged more concerned that their political “demi-gods” were being disgraced by glaring revelations of corruption and ineptitude as alleged by the Auditor General and the Africanist Press Reports (which are now of universal interest), than with a lack of accountability within MDAs. They even directly accused the Auditor General of leaking official information to the Africanist Press. That is the main reason for which they were insinuating she should be summarily relieved of her posts.
Also unlike as with allegations against the Chief Minister for which the ACC Commissioner pro-actively sprang to the former’s defense unsolicited, no one in this government is rushing to the rescue of the Auditor General as her character and reputation are being irreparably disparaged by the Pa-O-Pa brigade. A further glaring difference between the two cases is that whereas the allegations against the Chief Minister were directed at his person, those against the Auditor General implicitly transcend her personality and are calculated to further derail the efficiency and effectiveness of an institution created by an Act of Parliament to wit: Audit Services Sierra Leone.
In Lara Taylor-Pearce and her team responsible citizens are seeing dependable anti-corruption government allies and easy pickings for President Bio to leverage from. And that is exactly why we’ve got their backs covered as is evident in various dispassionate public statements in their defense. Regrettably the converse seems to be holding good on government side as what they’re rather seeing these days is that an institution that was supposed to be waxing an expansive level of autonomy under Sec. 119 (6) of the Constitution is being pilloried just so as to discredit and “pinhole” their laudable efforts. And this is happening under the watchful gaze of an administration that ascended into office on the mantra of zero tolerance on corruption.
The inferences reasonable beings are drawing from those recent puerile, beguiling and sensational front page screamers in mainly pro-SLPP Tabloids such as-:
– Lara Taylor-Pearce In Bribery Scandal!!
– Audit Services Sierra Leone Exposed!!
– Auditor General To Refund Le3Billion!!
– Lara Taylor-Pearce To be Investigated!!
are that they are calculated to frighten the daylight out of the Mrs. Taylor-Pearce and which (in their warped imaginations) will coerce and transform her into a pliant and malleable tool that will in future be superintending the churning out periodic “placebo-like” Audit Services Reports favourable to their agents and that will not even pass public scrutiny.
Yes, Mrs. Taylor-Pearce is concerned, but not intimidated. And her primary reason for that is nationalistic. On whether she will resign she retorted: “Everything is left to God….I am still young and there are other things to do: But it’s going to be difficult for Sierra Leone”. That response speaks volumes of (a) her traditional and tenaciously religious upbringing (to place her destiny into the hand of the Great Architect of the Universe) (b) her resilience (that she’s young and still has much much more to offer this country in particular and the world at large) and (c) her empathy for Mamma SaLone (Patriotism). Those are the primary considerations this country needs at this critical point in time that we have become soooooo ethno-centrically fragmented in the last three years, if we are to leave legacies for the next generation. But they are not ordinary and can’t be imbibed by temporary accesses to the political limelight. In other words they have to be innate. And this is what is lacking in many of our “pseudo-political elites” and “pseudo-Journalists”. “Pseudo” because their social relevance evaporates and is not sustained if their government is not in power.
No matter how adverse or widespread their flurry of negative insinuations against Mrs. Lara Taylor-Pearce and the Audit Services Sierra Leone, those who believe she could be intimidated into silence or subservience are having “day-mares” in their siestas. Equally so those who believe that exiting her from her tenured contract (a common phenomenon under this political administration) will frustrate the residual crop of ASSL staffers into watering down future annual reports just so as to please their handlers are also having “day-mares” in their siestas. The fact of the matter is that Lara Taylor-Pearce is unfazed; unperturbed because like all of us, she knows too well that this government has a responsibility to safeguard the life of every citizen irrespective of their perceived political persuasion – Lara and Team inclusive.
Further no matter how hard anyone tries to influence things, basic International Auditing and Accounting Standards (IAAS) and Practices will not allow Audit Reports – whether now or ever – to be manipulated to the narrow advantages of any one tribe, region or political party colour. Any Auditor General or government attempting that will in addition to having their credibility tarnished, also have to bear the wrath of the IMF/World, and our other traditional partners that prioritize accountability and transparency as a basis for their courtship. That is why it is foolhardy for any blind supporter of this government to be misconstruing the quality of recent ASSL and Africanist Press Reports as the handiworks of the APC opposition. In fact truth be told since 2015 to date, nothing has changed in the form of presentation and substance of both the Audit Services and Africanist Press Reports on successive sitting governments. But unlike now, the APC never for once insinuated that those adverse reports on their administration were politically motivated because unlike the SLPP, we had “Game-Spirit”.
A majority of Sierra Leoneans are thankful for the likes of the Auditor General and her Team that in a nation where corruption is this pervasive, they have been sincere, resilient and committed enough to keep their heads above waters in order to actively compliment the “spoken commitment” of President Bio to eradicate all forms of corruption in our MDAs. Their prayers are that President Bio should now be seen to be openly complimenting efforts of ASSL to pro-actively block all leakages that have since April 2018 been transformed into drainages as exposed in various Audit and Africanist Press Reports. A key enabler towards achieving that is our Legislature. The overwhelming public reactions of the public on matters arising from the Year 2019 Audit and NACOVERC Reports are clear indications that they are undeniably of serious national concerns. The fact that Sec.119 (5) of the Constitution does not stipulate timelines for Parliament to conclude deliberations on Audit Reports and to form the requisite Committees to delve into serious issues (if any) should not mean that can continue to sit on those Reports indefinitely. Accordingly the sooner Parliament closes their review of the Audit and NACOVERC Reports and form the necessary Committees to move the process forward, the better.
Meantime Mrs. Lara Taylor-Pearce and Team, be assured that all responsible and law-abiding citizens have got your backs covered.