Deputy Minister for Fiscal Affairs of the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP), Dr. James F. Kollie, told journalists yesterday that his Ministry will be forced to test the country’s democracy by going to the Supreme Court if his boss, Minister Amara Konneh is charged with contempt of Legislature for misinterpretation of the Constitution during his appearance before plenary of the Senate this morning for a Contempt hearing.
“The Minister will come along with his lawyer, and if there is a misinterpretation of the Constitution, we will go to the Supreme Court. We will be forced to test our democracy,” Kollie declared.
Dr. Kollie’s letter to the Senate and his boss’s refusal to apologize for its content has ignited the ire of the lawmakers building up to their decision to summon Minister Konneh for a contempt hearing. In an interview on the grounds of the Capitol Building Deputy Minister Kollie maintained that his Ministry did not usurp any Constitutional function of the lawmakers and declared that the matter could go before the Supreme Court for interpretation.
Kollie debated that Article 44 is clear on what constitutes Contempt of the Legislature stating, “Either you obstruct the function of the Legislature or impede their function.”
He explained, “if the argument is that the tone (of the letter) that says the Senate should come back to us within a specified time frame and they found it to be offensive, the Minister started his presentation by saying that he apologized for the language, which in paragraph four, says come back to me just before the close of business day on that particular day. So it is not like we were giving an ultimatum.”
Dr. Kollie, echoing his boss, maintained that his Ministry has the power to recast the budget and that the Public Financial Management Law details the process leading to that. “The Constitution says you can approve that, how you approve it, they (Legislators) in August 2009, decided in the Public Management law the process leading to that,” said Dr. Kollie.
Minister Konneh appeared before the Senate plenary on Tuesday day to answer queries on a letter authored by his Deputy for Fiscal Affairs which among its contents, informed the lawmakers that subject to Legislative endorsement, their recurrent appropriation for FY2015/16 ‘is now set at US$14,043,570, down from US$15,306,416. The letter explained further that the new ceiling reflected projected government funds and included the US$7,756,575 that had already been allotted to them as at December 31, 2015.
The Ministry in its letter also informed the Senate that it remained an extreme imperative that they employ austerity measures to cut back public spending by US$69.9 million, but that efforts were being made to protect spending on areas of compensation, debt repayments and social benefits…and spending on ongoing programs in the health and education sectors.
Meanwhile, every attempt by even Senators of the Unity Party to steer Minister Konneh, who is to soon join the World Bank, to apologize and put the matter to rest fell on deaf ears.
Financial commentators believe the Minister is trying to avoid anything that would reflect adversely on his record on the eve of his departure.
Following a thorough competitive selection process, Minister Konneh recently accepted to serve as World Bank’s Manager, Fragility, Conflict and Violence CCSA at the Bank office in Nairobi, Kenya, and is expected to start work in May.