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Thursday, June 20, 2024

Ombudsman laments leaking of SSHFC report

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By Amadou Jadama

The Office of the Ombudsman has issued a press release to say it neither shared nor published the outcome of its investigations into the SSHFC saga with the public, leading to its eventual spread in both social and conventional media.

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The statement reads, thus:
“The Office of the Ombudsman has noted that its report on the SSHFC Staff petition has been published and is being circulated on social media. The Office wishes to strongly dissociate itself from this act.
We wish to draw the attention of the people to the fact that confidentiality is one of the tenets of Ombudsmanship and the Office has always maintained confidentiality during and after the investigations. It has never deviated from the observance of this important tenet since its inception.

Investigations at the Office of the Ombudsman are done in camera and one of its annual reports, which is sent to the National Assembly does not include the names of persons in line with section 15(3) of the Ombudsman Act. This is because the report to the National Assembly is a public document and the identities of people are not to be revealed.
One of the reasons people have trust and confidence in the Ombudsman system of dispensing administrative justice is the confidentiality they are assured of. The investigations are done in camera as opposed to other system of dispensing administrative on other forms of justice, which is one of the things which makes Ombudsman an alternative.

However, it is to be noted that as a matter of practice, the Ombudsman share its findings with individuals and institutions that are parties to a complaint. This is done because parties have a right to the complaints they have lodged with the Ombudsman as well as those whose conduct are the cause of investigation. It is hoped that parties will help the Ombudsman in maintaining confidentiality of copies of reports issued to them.
Although the Ombudsman may choose to publish its findings in the interest of the public, in line with section(10) (2), of the Ombudsman Act, it has not done so in the SSHFC Staff petition just as in all previous complaints with the Office of the Ombudsman.
It is hoped that together we will continue to uphold the values, practices and procedures that are characteristic of a good system of dispensing administrative justice in which all parties have explicit trust and confidence.”

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Calls for Barrow to ignore report
Meanwhile the deputy PRO of a group calling it self concern youth for national development, Sulayman Dampha has warned President Adama Barrow against considering the Ombudsman’s report on the SSHFC saga.

“We want to tell the president that if he makes any attempt to consider the Ombudsman’s report we will take action against his decision. That is our position,” said Dampha, who walked into the offices of The Standard yesterday regarding the issue.
“As far as we are concerned, the Ombudsman’s report is misleading and directly undermining the president. It is also one-sided by accusing Muhammed Manjang of being guilt. We want to ask the Ombudsman where were they when the whole saga was unfolding?” he quizzed.
Mr Dampha said the fact that the Ombudsman never intervened when the whole saga started they should have remained silent, especially after an investigation has been made and the report is presented to the president.

According to Mr Dampha, the striking staff of the SSHFC never liked Mr Manjang’s appointment.
“We want to say that we are totally against the Ombudsman’s report. To us the presidential panel on the matter is authentic and we are waiting for his action,” he said.
Dampha added that the Ombudsman’s report has also tarnished the image of Manjang and that of his family.
“We will not allow any institution or organization to undermine the progress of this country. We will not accept that,” he stressed.

Another concerned party who called The Standard said the Ombudsman’s report failed to explain the circumstances that led to usage of the per diem by MD Manjang. “The report failed to highlight that Manjang could get stranded in Dakar because he could not get a connecting flight to Freetown. It was not his wish to stay in Dakar and in any case per diem comes to effect once you are out of your country on a trip. So it is unfair to ask the MD to refund the per diem,” he said.
He further explained that tdinner for MDs and their family is common and it exists within many institutions. “That is clearly not a strange thing, I think the bigger picture is Mr Manjang deserves better words than these unfair observations by the Ombudsman’s office,” he said.

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