The Public Education and Prevention Units of the Anti-Corruption Commission’s (ACC) office in the Northern Region jointly had an engagement with the core Management of Sierra Leone Network on the Right to Food (SiLNORF), on October 26, 2023 in the organisation’s Conference Room, Makeni-Magburaka Highway in Makeni.
The object of the engagement was to inform the leaders of the organisation about the importance of capturing the valued views and opinions of citizens in the development of the new National Anti-Corruption Strategy (NACS) which will span from 2024 to 2028.
Delivering his keynote statement, Senior Public Education Officer, Abdul Karim Bangura, stated that the NACS is the collective voice and action of the public, who invariably bear the brunt of distorted public service delivery. According to Mr. Bangura, the NACS Department together with experts gathers the suggestions of a broad spectrum of the public through interviews, focused group discussions, and town hall meetings to develop a detailed implementation action plan with actionable objectives.
‘The idea to encourage the public to express their positions on how to fight against corruption in the country,’ Mr. Bangura stated ‘is in keeping with the United Nations Convention against Corruption, which is an instrument that bears legality to fight corruption.’
The Senior Officer added that currently the Department with a team of experts has embarked on a nation-wide consultation in order to craft the new NACS. The engagements have already been held in Port Loko and Kambia districts in the North Western Region. The Northern Regional Districts of Bombali, Koinadugu, and Tonkolili are scheduled to participate in this national effort on October 30, 31, and November 1 respectively.
Mr. Bangura stressed that given the complex nature of corruption, the effort to harness the judgements of citizens to combat the menace is relevant in several ways. He noted that, in the first place, the consultation serves as a platform for citizens to express their civic right to deal with a phenomenon that threatens their interactions and relationships with public institutions. He furthered that, the consultation creates inclusivity fostering owning the fight against corruption by every stratum of the public, amongst other related advantages.
The next NACS, which is to be crafted will be the Fifth Generation with four antecedents spanning from 2005 to December 2023.
ACC’s Public Education Officer, Aiah Sourie, noted, in his contribution, that objective three of the current 4th Generation of the NACS Implementation Action Plan, which comes to a close in December 2023, proposes that District Councils should lead the process of conducting accountability forums for organisations such as SiLNORF, so that the public is aware of how they spend donor funds in the district.
That said, Mr. Sourie informed his audience that misappropriation of donor funds and property is an offence under Section 37 of the Anti-Corruption Act of 2008 as amended in 2019. He further clarified that ‘donor funds and property are public funds and property, and therefore urged the management of SiLNORF to always be guided by public interest rather than personal in implementing projects and awarding of contracts’ He assured SiLNORF that they could avail themselves of the Commission’s expertise and readiness to improve on their anti-corruption measures.
One such way the Commission could be of help to SiLFORF, ACC Prevention Officer in the region, Lathiff Sesay, proposed watertight recommendations to rid the activities of the organisation of potential corruption risks, after an assessment of their systems and processes. He added: ‘The Prevention Department of the ACC adds value to the work of public institutions, and institutions like yours can as well tap the opportunity to achieve their mandates.’
Responding, Abass Kamara and Lansana Sowa, Head of Program and Deputy National Coordinator of SiLNORF respectively, thanked the ACC team for the engagement revealing that they learned much more about the Commission during the meeting. They both expressed interest in collaborating with the ACC to ensure that targeted beneficiaries never miss out on projects they implement in communities. ‘Local authorities who may want to hijack our project facilities will think twice once they know we are working with the ACC,’ Mr Kamara averred.
Established in 2008, SiLNORF is a charity operating with a network of 16 organisations to promote the right to food and land governance. The charity prides itself on significantly contributing to land reforms in the country.