For Contempt of Parliament Ebola Coordinator Steven Gaojia detained and released later

By Abu Bakarr Kargbo

Chapter six of the 1991 Constitution makes provision for each of the Committees in Parliament to have rights and privileges as vested in the High Court at a trial in respect, namely enforcing the attendance of witnesses and examining them on oath, affirmation or otherwise. In exercise of those powers, the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, Hon. Chernor Maju Bah had ordered the detention of Steven Gaojia at the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) until today Tuesday, 3rd March, 2015. The order came at the hearing of the Committee on the Auditor General’s Report on the Ebola funds at the Parliament Committee Room Number One.

Steven Gaojia…arrogant and disrespectful 

Steven Gaojia…arrogant and disrespectful

The National Ebola Response Centre (NERC) Coordinator was before the Committee as a witness and was present with some officials of the Ministry of Health and Sanitation. His scornful statement against the Auditors, has earned him a night stay in detention at the Criminal Investigation Department. He went on ranting and lashing out “those he claimed that are going around claiming to be Auditors, they have never done real time auditing in emergency situations.”

Even though he was ordered by the Committee Chairman to withdraw his statement, Mr. Steven Gaojia refused to comply as he sounded very arrogant before the Committee. The decision was reached after the Committee Chairman adjourned the hearing for five minutes after Mr. Steven Gaojia’s disrespectful statement. A police Sergeant was immediately ordered to frogmarch him down to the Criminal Investigation Department.

The NERC Assistant Coordinator was shocked when the order came from the Chairman of the Committee who also doubles as Deputy Speaker of Parliament. To many observers present, the Committee’s decision to detain Mr. Steven Gaojia was a right one; as some were even suggesting that the punishment should have been severe than what he received.

Mr. Gaojia had failed to realize that the Parliamentary Committees are empowered by Section 93 (3) of the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone to investigate or inquire into the activities or administration of Government Ministries or Departments and Agencies (MDAs) as may be assigned to them, “and such investigations or inquires may extend to proposals for legislation.”

The powers of the Committees are: to enhance the enforcement capacity of the Committees, each of the Committees pursuant to Section 93 subsection 6 of the 1991 Constitution, enjoy the powers and privileges of the High Court in respect of: enforcing the attendance of witnesses and examining them on oath, affirmation or otherwise compelling the production of documents and the issue of a Commission or request to examine witnesses abroad.

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