Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Is A Commission Of Enquiry A Court ?

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QUESTION OF THE DAY

According to Section 200 of the Constitution

“(I) The President may, whenever he or she deems it advisable,  issue a Commission appointing  one or more Commissioners and authorising  such Commissioners to inquire into-

(a)        the conduct of any public officer;

(b)        the conduct of any District Seyfo or Alkalo;

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(c)  the conduct or management of any department or authority of the public service  or any  local  government  authority  or Public  Enterprise; or

(d)   any matter whatever arising in The  Gambia  in  which  an  inquiry would, in the opinion of the President, be for the public good.

(2)  The National Assembly may request the President to establish a Commission of Inquiry for any of the purposes set out in subsection (1)..

Section 202 provides for the following functions

“1(a)      make a full and impartial  investigation  into the matter  in respect  of which the Commission is established; and

(b)      furnish in writing a report on the results of the inquiry, including a statement of the reasons leading to the conclusions of the Commission.”

What then are the limits of the judicial powers of a Commission of enquiry ?

A Commission of Inquiry shall have all the powers, rights and privileges of a judge of the High Court at a trial in respect of-

(a)   enforcing the attendance of witnesses and examining them on oath, affirmation or otherwise;

(b)        compelling the production of documents

  1. c) issuing a commission or request for the examination of witnesses abroad; and
  2. d) making interim orders

What happens when an adverse finding is made against a person?

According to Section 204

1)      When a Commission of enquiry makes an adverse finding against any person ,it shall at a time of submitting its report to the President ,inform such person of the findings and the reasons therefor.

2)       A person against whom any such adverse finding has been made may appeal against such finding to the Court of Appeal as of right as if the finding were a judgement of a High court , and on the hearing of the appeal the report shall be  treated  as if it were such a judgment .

3)       An appeal under this section shall be made within three months of the appellant being informed of the adverse finding as provided for in Subsection 1 or such later time as the court of appeal may allow?

It therefore appears that the next action that follows the submission of a report to the President and alerting a person against whom an adverse finding has been made is to be determined by the Court of appeal.

Since the Court of appeal could allow appeals anytime after three months, it is prudent for the state to resort to the Courts if no appeals are made within three months to ensure finality of any adverse decision. This is how matters stand.

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