Sometime in October 2023, the Chairperson of the Pan-African Parliament’s Committee on Audit and Public Accounts (CAPA), Hon. Miles Sampa convened meetings to deliberate on why the August 2023 Committee Sittings and October 2023 Plenary Session of the Pan-African Parliament (PAP) could not hold.

As at the time of convening the meeting, Hon. Sampa had already indicated interest in contesting for political office and had began consultations to replace the President of the Parliament, Hon. Chief Fortune Charumbira. The convened committee meetings on its face appear to be aself-serving adventure and raises questions that bother on conflict of interest. The point being made here is that a committee chairperson should not use that platformand PAP resources to advance his or her personal interest and political ambition. This is particularly so considering the fact that the said audit investigation began as soon as the President left for election in Zimbabwe in August 2023.

Interestingly, Hon. Sampa embarked on the investigative hearing to find out why the August 2023 Committee Sitting and October 2023 session could not hold notwithstanding the Report of the Chairperson of the Committee on Monetary and Financial Matters, Hon. Muntaka which was presented and adopted by the plenary during the May 2023 session. Hon. Muntaka had in his report, warned that unless funding was received from the AU, that PAP would not be able to hold the said sittings. How can a parliamentary committee set out to contradict the report and findings of another committee? There should be harmony among the committees and a situation where committees try to undo each other will not make for progress.

It is also on record that the Executive Council during its February 2023 42nd Ordinary Session EX.CL/Dec.1198(XLII) in paragraph 12, specifically requested “the PRC, through the relevant Sub-Committee to reconsider the 2023 budget of the PAP in order to enable the Parliament to meet its institutional and operational needs and to effectively fulfill its mandate”. These facts were generally known and available to Hon. Sampa yet he decided to embark on what amounted to a smear campaign against Chief Charumbira in furtherance of his personal agenda of becoming PAP President. Worst still, he did not wait to present the report to the plenary for consideration and adoption as required by the Rules of Procedure before going public with it.

Article 11 of the PAP Protocol gives the Parliament the power to examine, discuss or express an opinion on any matter, either on its own initiative or at the request of the Assembly or other policy organs and make any recommendations it may deem fit relating to, inter alia, matters pertaining to respect of human rights, the consolidation of democratic institutions and the culture of democracy, as well as the promotion of good governance and the rule of law. The PAP Protocol also gave the Parliament, the power to discuss its budget and the budget of the African Union (AU) and make recommendations thereon prior to its approval by the Assembly.

Pursuant to Rule 22 of the Parliament’s Rules of Procedure, PAP established permanent committees for the proper discharge of its functions. These committees play a crucial role in the legislative process by examining specific issues, scrutinizing actions of PAP Secretariat, AU agencies, institutions and departments, and formulating recommendations for parliamentary consideration. Specifically, Rule 23(4) made it mandatory that after the committees complete their work and produce reports, they must be presented to the Parliament for consideration and adoption before being released to the public.

The adoption of a committee’s report by the plenary signifies the parliament’s endorsement of the report’s contents and recommendations. It is only after the plenary has adopted a committee report that it can become a report of the parliament and can then be made available to the public.

The requirement for plenary adoption before public release as per Rule 23(4) serves several purposes. It ensures that committee reports receive official endorsement from the Parliament; enhances the credibility and authority of the reports and provides an opportunity for parliamentary debate and scrutiny of the report’s contents. It also promotes accountability and transparency in the legislative process and allows parliamentarians to review and endorse the work of committees. This promotes informed decision-making and enables public oversight of parliamentary activities since plenary sessions are open to the public.

Notwithstanding the fact that the report of Hon. Sampa’s Audit has not been presented to the plenary for consideration and adoption as required by Rule 23(4), the report was passed on to the Task Force set up by the Chairperson of the African Union Commission as conclusive evidence of corrupt practices against the President. Unfortunately for both Hon. Sampa and Hon. Ashebir Gayo who was then Acting PAP President, the report was not considered by the Task Force.

According to the Task Force Report in Paragraph 31 “The Task Force determined that it was premature to include details of the CAPA audit findings because the report has yet to exhaust the PAP internal validation process and other established due processes including consideration of the report by the Plenary of PAP.”

Violation of the clear and unambiguous provisions of Rule 23(4) should attract sanction by the Parliament to serve as a deterrent against such abuses. Releasing such a parliamentary committee report before presentation and adoption by the plenary has far reaching negative implications.  First, it has led to the dissemination of incomplete or unverified information. The report should have undergone revisions, amendments, or internal review processes, and should have been harmonized with the adopted report of the Committee on Monetary and Financial Matters.

By releasing such a sensitive report to the public before plenary adoption, Hon. Sampa circumvented and/ or undermined the authority of the full parliament. Plenary sessions are where all the elected members of the Pan-African Parliament formally endorse and adopt committee findings and recommendations. Those negatively affected by the report would have had the opportunity to present exculpatory evidence in their defense. The premature release of the report greatly prejudiced those affected while also preempting the official process.

Releasing such a report without context or official endorsement has resulted in misinterpretation and/ or misrepresentation of the report’s contents. The public, including Parliamentarians are being misled into drawing unfair adverse inferences and premature conclusions. The report is nothing but a political tool orchestrated to tarnish the image of Chief Charumbira without giving him an opportunity to be heard. This is fundamentally unfair and an ambush tactic that should be considered un-parliamentary.