The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) continues to engage public institutions across the country on the need for integrity and partnership as critical tools in the fight against public sector corruption. On 14th September 2022 in Makeni, the Commission’s Public Education and Outreach Unit in the North East region sensitized staff of Statistics Sierra Leone (Stats SL) on probity, transparency, and accountability in public service delivery.
Speaking at the engagement, ACC Senior Public Education Officer, Abdul Karim Bangura, informed the staff of Stats SL that corruption emerges where ethics and best practices have been submerged mainly because of unbridled thirst for undue advantage. Like an insidious disease, he explained, corruption spreads and attacks ethical systems and processes within the public sector, with apparently destructive effects on the country’s overall development and growth. The officer further pointed out that when the public is inadequately informed about corruption, the unfortunate situation escalates leaving most of the citizenry susceptible to extortion and abuse at the hand of corrupt public officers.
Given this backdrop, the anti-graft crusader pointed out the Commission’s unbroken commitment to informing the public and public officers about corruption and the benefits of defeating the scourge. The Public Education and Outreach Department of the Commission is a key actor in reaching this purpose, Bangura enlightened his audience, allaying their fear that the meeting was therefore neither investigative nor monitoring. ‘We are here to share relevant information on corruption and the ACC, and we hope this meeting will be interactive.’
According to Bangura, many people confine the meaning of corruption to just misappropriation of public funds and property as recorded in Section 36 (1) of the 2008 Anti-Corruption Act as amended in 2019. He disclosed that corruption also encompasses practices and conducts that adversely affect official functions, citing absenteeism and habitual lateness at work as examples. Thus, he implored the staff to desist from all forms of corruption and adhere to the required ethics in delivering service to the public. ‘This means that you should uphold integrity as a must-have value within – and even without – the work world. Once you maintain integrity, you wouldn’t parry any call for transparency and accountability.’
The statisticians were also informed about milestone reforms in the anti-graft laws of the country. ACC Resident Prosecutor covering the region, Timothy P. M. Sowa, explicitly remarked that under Section 29 (2) of the Act a public officer, in or out of Sierra Leone, who solicits, accepts or obtains an advantage that improperly affects his or her official duties commits a crime and is liable to a minimum fine of 50,000 Leones or imprisonment not less than five years. ‘I therefore forewarn you to resist bribery which is a common example of an advantage.’
The prosecutor added that any person who corrupts a public official by directly or indirectly giving him or her an advantage to pervert his or her official duties commits a crime and is also liable to a fine not less than 50,000 Leones or a minimum imprisonment term of five years. He then affirmed that both the giver and receiver of bribery or an advantage have committed a crime and should be accordingly dealt with under the Anti-Corruption law.
Regarding current developments, ACC Public Education Officer (PEO), Aiah Sourie, apprised the meeting of the Commission’s relentless collaboration with Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs) to maximize control and intensify combating corruption for quality service delivery. Through its Prevention Department, the Commission between 2018-2022 reviewed the systems and procedures of 14 MDAs, offering 461 recommendations out of which an impressive 336 have been successfully implemented.
In addition, the ACC has formed Integrity Management Committees in over 95% of MDAs in the country to own the national struggle against corruption through the promotion of integrity in public service delivery. These are two of several impactful achievements the ACC has scored under the astute leadership of Francis Ben Kaifala Esq., Sourie emphasized. The Public Educator confessed that he was delighted because the Deputy Commissioner, Augustine Foday Ngobie, presented a catalogue of the achievements of the Commission to a conference of State Parties to the United Nations Convention against Corruption which was held in Vienna, Austria.
The Principal Statistician, Amadu Sheriff, responded after the anti-corruption messages saying that he appreciated the engagement with the ACC, describing it as timely and relevant to the functions of his office in the region. While he called for further meetings and close collaboration with the ACC, he lamented that 53 sets of enumeration equipment have not been returned to his office since the official end of the 2022 Mid-term census exercise.