RAFSANJANI: We Demand Sincerity And Objectivity In Legislative Probes
Auwal Musa Rafsanjani is the executive director of the Civil Society Legislative Centre (CISLAC). Working closely with the legislature, he said more sincerity and objectivity is required for probes to be meaningful. He spoke with BISI ALABI WILLIAMS.
The NASS has conducted 82 probes since 1999. But we did not see one complete prosecution or follow up on major findings and outcomes; are you satisfied with what the NASS has done so far in this regard?
WE have in several occasions made our intentions known to the public that we are very dissatisfied with the number of fruitless probes launched by the legislature, especially during the 7th Assembly. There were many probes to investigate financial mismanagement, recklessness and abuses, but most of them were swept under the carpet. During the 7th Assembly, we on several occasions demanded sincerity and objectivity in legislative probes.
Principally, the legislature is to make laws and carry out oversight of government ministries. Are probes and investigations also part of their job description?
The legislature in general has key functions such as: lawmaking, oversight, representation, financial control, confirmation of appointment, and constitution amendment. Through law making, the legislators have the responsibility to make laws for the orderly and good governance of the society. Oversight function of the legislature is provided under Section 88 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended in 2010), which empowers the legislature to carry out investigations within its competence to prevent and expose corruption, inefficiency or waste in the execution or administration of laws. Legislative oversight is a constitutional right of the legislature, which empowered it to expose corruption and waste of public funds in government, agencies and ministries. It is the core of democracy that legislature controls the finance.
That is, no money could be spent or raised by the executive without the previous consent and approval of the legislature. Also, no money can be withdrawn from the Consolidated Fund of the state without authorization of legislature. Annually, budget containing the estimated expenditure and income of the ensuing year must be placed before the legislature. The legislature must ensure effective control over public resources. Section 80 lays the powers of the legislature with respect over budget. Having said this, the legislature has the mandate to launch probe into issues concerning mismanagement of public treasury and abuse of office.
Some see these probes as meddlesome and saber-rattling, to draw attention without any desire to clean the stables; do you agree?
Fundamentally, legislative probe should be carried out to check mismanagement, abuse or violation of public trust. However, it is a question of immorality and betrayal of public trust to see the legislature politicizing probes. Of course, it is no more news that legislature, especially in the 7th Assembly launched several important probes without concrete outcomes. Some members were caught playing politics with probing process.
Or would you rather blame the executive that has failed to lift the probes beyond the legislative shelves where they have been consigned?
The executive can only implement recommendations from probes when they are sincerely carried out and concluded. Several dead probes remain so because of failure on the part of the legislature and not the executives.
Moving forward, what would you demand of the 8th Assembly and the new government so that probes are effective, with prosecutions?
We call on the legislative members to maintain highly level of objectivity and strictly adhere to their established code of conduct in the performance of their legislative assignments for the maximum benefit of the country. We charge the Assembly on value of excellence and professionalism in the performance of their mandates; and to ensure civility and responsible conduct inside and outside of the Assembly, commensurate with the trust placed in them by the electorate.
While high moral and ethical standards must be maintained to guarantee public’s confidence, reduction to a minimum of any conflict between private interests and official duties, should be carefully observed and differentiated. By so doing, members should strive to avoid all manners of engagement that might comprise legislative code of conduct, values and ethical standards.
We encourage the Assembly to maintain constructive interface with civil society, primarily to: identify the political constraints, opportunities for the legislatures and develop strategy for engagement; inspire support for legislative issue or action; create new ways of framing an issue or policy narrative; share expertise and experience and recommend new legislative approaches; enhance the legislators’ capacity to improve in their activities; transfer capacity for more clearly designed better interventions; make tracking and monitoring more effective; fasten progress in enacting relevant legislation for sustainable development; and enhance space for CSOs interaction and participation in the legislative activities.
We urge immediate capacity building and development for the legislators, legislative aides and staff through training and retraining programmes to enhance effectiveness and professional competence in the performance of their respective legislative mandates; and provide necessary support dealing with technical issues.