The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) Southern Region Office has, on the 6th July 2020, cautioned officers of the District Emergency Response Center (DICOVERC) Bo on the efficient and judicious use of public resources in the management of the COVID 19 pandemic. The engagement took place at the district’s command center in Bo.
Speaking during the engagement, ACC’s Southern Region Manager, Musa J.B Jawara, informed DICOVERC members that the Commission had set up a transparency taskforce to monitor the management of public resources meant for combating the COVID 19 pandemic. Mr. Jawara said that such a taskforce is in compliance with international best practices to ensure transparency and accountability during crisis management, as it happened in the USA during the Hurricane Katrina. He highlighted potential corruption practices such as falsification of expenses, diversion of funds and food for quarantine homes, inflation of names in quarantine homes, misuse of fuel and vehicle, and overpricing for repairs of vehicles and motorbikes.
Mr. Jawara said that DICOVERC Bo should ensure that the public is adequately informed about what is received and expended by the office, with documents to show for same. He said all funds received for the management of the COVID 19 pandemic should be handled in accordance to laid down public financial management practices. He reminded the District Coordinator of DICOVERC Bo that, as vote controller, he was directly responsible for the use of resources under his supervision and should therefore put measures in place to prevent misappropriation; highlighting laws guiding the use and management of public funds such as the Financial Management Regulations and the Public Procurement Act of 2016.
Deliberating on the offences in the Anti-Corruption Act 2008 as amended in 2019, Resident Prosecutor, Abubakarr Sannoh Esq, said that at the end of the pandemic, itwould be better to receive awards from the President than to be at the High Court answering to allegations of corruption. Mr. Sannoh referenced the recent National Corruption perception survey which acknowledged that citizens rate prosecution as the best method in fighting corruption, adding that this has helped the Commission in putting so much preference to enforcement through investigation and prosecution in a bid to nip the scourge in the bud.
The ACC Prosecutor said that both the anti-corruption laws have made corruption a high risk and unproductive enterprise. He made reference to several offences in the amended Act and its parent Act, such as abuse of office/position, misappropriation of donor/public funds, conflict of interest, protection of public property and revenue and using influence for contract; cautioning DICOVERC officers to stay away from such practices as many of those offences carry a minimum of Fifty Million Leones (Le50, 000000) fine or five (5) years imprisonment, or both fine and jail term, as the court may so please.
Speaking on the need for monitoring, Jarai Barrie of the Center for Accountability and the Rule of Law (CARL) deliberated on the experiences on the management of public funds during the Ebola crisis and how the lack of proper monitoring contributed to the misuse of public/donor funds. She said as a proactive measure, CARL was partnering with other institutions to monitor the use of public resources during the COVID 19 pandemic.
While welcoming the team from the ACC earlier, the Bo District Coordinator of DICOVERC, David Fortune, said that the engagement was timely and appropriate as it was set to add value to their operations. He noted that there would be no excuse for the misuse of public funds on the justification of an emergency as there are laws guiding the use and management of public funds. He said there was every need for transparency and accountability in the utilization of public funds to prevent corruption.
A question-and-answer session climaxed the engagement.