By: Alex A. Bah
The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) office in the Northeast region of the country has inspired over 150 rural community dwellers in Kholifa Rowalla Chiefdom, Tonkolili district, to eschew and report all forms of corruption at all times. The sensitization activities, in sync with the Commission’s strategy to increase knowledge on and elicit public support to thwart corruption, took place at Mabum Station and Mabum Bana on the 26th and 27th May, 2022 respectively.
On each occasion the Commission’s Senior Public Education Officer (SPEO) in the region, Abdul Karim Bangura, set the tone saying: ‘The ACC is committed to ensuring that the public gets adequate information about corruption and the gains in its elimination in every nook and cranny of the country’s public sector.’ The officer then maintained that corruption with its dwindling effects impedes national development and all citizens should take an unreserved decision to join the ACC in combating it – now – not later.
Mr Bangura added that rural communities are not exempt from perpetuating corruption or from being victims of corruption. He said that extortion, unlawful detentions, seizure of land legally owned by poor citizens, and bribery for public services are rife in rural settings. This, he stressed, therefore justifies the need for public education on corruption in the farthest rural communities across the country.
The officer continued to inform the rapt audience that they should wean themselves of apathy towards community development efforts as such attitude is ill-advised and unprogressive. ‘How can you sensibly stay out of the welfare of the community when you are an organic part of it,’ he said, emphasizing that the community is stronger and better together in the fight against corruption.
The ACC urged the stakeholders of the two communities, in particular, to exhibit exemplary leadership in ensuring that corruption become an anathema given that it exacerbates poverty and deprivation, among other negative consequences.The local actors were further implored to uphold integrity, far above self-interest, as a common ground for community development, and support project implementation in their communities for the benefit of everyone.
While encouraging the communities to shun and report corruption to the Commission using toll-free 077985985 or 077986986, the SPEO referred to the Anti-Corruption Act 2008 as amended in 2019 concerning contracts. He said that Section 126 of the Act confers powers on the ACC Commissioner to halt contracts that he deems not in the interest of the public. This, the officer explains, provides the basis for the community people to report to the Commission any projects in their areas that flout common interest.
Public Education Officer (PEO), Aiah Sourie, also contributed to the anti-graft messages. He assured the people of Mabum Station and Mabum Bana that the ACC’s Non-Conviction Asset Based Recovery has fetched over 35 Billion Leones from corrupt public officials in the past four years. He said the country’s anti-corruption reforms have led to an increase in penalties for corruption offences from 30 Million Leones to 50 Million Leones and imprisonment term from 3 years to 5 years at least on one count of a corruption offence; the establishment of an anti-corruption division in the High Court, things he said are tenable testaments that the war against corruption in the country is winnable.
The PEO however highlighted the need for concerted efforts on all fronts in the campaign against graft. Given that corruption checkmates national progress at the expense of all citizens regardless of region or ethnicity, he encouraged the community members to support the ACC to achieve the selfless vision of ‘a corruption-free Sierra Leone which will ensure that the socio-economic needs of its citizens are met’.
After listening to the anti-corruption officers from the Public Education and Outreach Unit in the Northeast region of the country, the headsmen of Mabum Station and Mabum Bana communities in Tonkolili district confessed that they felt impelled to resist and report corruption and back up the ACC to achieve its goal.
They then received Information Education and Communication materials from the officers of the anti-graft body by the close of the interactive meetings.