By: David Yusuf Kabia, Public Relations Assistant, ACC
The dire need for the recovery of misappropriated resources across the world is evident in the Preface of “Asset Recovery Handbook A Guide for Practitioners” (2011) published by Jean-Pierre Brun. This recovery system of stolen assets and resources is one of the clearly recognizable tripartite punitive measures against corruption as enshrined in the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC)
“Developing countries lose between US$20 to US$40 billion each year through bribery, misappropriation of funds, and other corrupt practices. Much of the proceeds of corruption find a “safe haven” in the world’s financial centers. These criminal flows are a drain on social services and economic development programs, contributing to the further impoverishment of the world’s poorest countries. The victims include children in need of education, patients in need of treatment, and all members of society who contribute their fair share and deserve the assurance that public funds are being used to improve their lives. But corruption affects us all by undermining confidence in governments, banks, and companies in both developed and developing economies.”
In Sierra Leone, the ills of corruption are annually captured by the Auditor General’s Report published by the Audit Service Sierra Leone and other credible Civil Society-led assessments like the National Corruption Perception Survey and Cost of Corruption reports. The just published 2021 Audit Report which already is being consumed by individuals and institutions concerned is the reason for the Anti-Corruption Commission’s (ACC) Press Conference held today Wednesday 4th January 2023 where the Commissioner clearly disclosed the Commission’s position on the issues of alleged misappropriation of public funds and resources contained therein the Report.
The Commissioner, without mincing his words stated that the issues of alleged misappropriation of public resources as reported by the Audit Service Sierra Leone amounting to the loss of several Billions of Leones presented clear evidence of a lethargic attitude in the presentation of required information (mostly receipts) by those responsible for same in various Ministries, Department and Agencies (MDAs) by the Auditors.
This led to an alleged estimated cash loss of $:3,523,588 (Three Million Five Hundred and Twenty-Three Thousand Five Hundred and Eighty-Eight United States Dollars), €183,949 (One Hundred and Eighty-Three Thousand Nine Hundred and Fourty Nine Euros), and £ 752, 859 (Seven Hundred and Fifty-Two Thousand Eight Hundred and Fifty-Nine Pounds) on Diplomatic Missions; an alleged estimated cash loss of Le:5,610,439,736 (Five Billion Six Hundred and Ten Billion Four Hundred and Thirty-Nine Thousand Seven Hundred and Thirty-Six Leones) in 14 Local Councils; an alleged estimated cash loss of Le. 65,181,048,963 (Sixty Five Billion One Hundred and Eighty-One Million and Forty-Eight Thousand Nine Hundred and Sixty-Three Leones) plus $132,000 (One Hundred and Thirty-Two Thousand United States Dollars) in revenue generating entities; an alleged estimated cash loss of Le.560,204,104,073 (Five Hundred and Sixty Billion Two Hundred and Four Million One Hundred and Four Thousand and Seventy-Three Leones) in tax liabilities and a further alleged estimated cash loss of Le.116,238,191,455 (One Hundred and Sixteen Billion Two Hundred and Thirty-Eight Million One Hundred and Ninety-One Thousand Four Hundred and Fifty-Five Leones) plus $338,424 (Three Hundred and Thirty-Eight Four Hundred and Twenty-Four Leones) under the general category.
The Commissioner noted with certainty that some of these alleged reported financial discrepancies can quickly be fixed given that those supposedly responsible for providing either the information or accounting for the resources perceived to have been missing to the Audit Service must now do so with the Commission. He confirmed that the ACC had conducted and shall continue to carry on several raids and make arrests with the object of holding key actors accountable and recovering misappropriated resources. While he agreed that some of the issues may lead to prosecution after investigations, Commissioner Francis Ben Kaifala was emphatic on the uncompromising posture of the ACC to recover every single money reported to have been lost as quickly as possible.
He went on to state that the fight against corruption can best be carried on when all and sundry endeavor to work along lines of transparency and accountability unrelentingly. It could be recalled that the ACC since its introduction of the effective Non-Conviction Based Asset Recovery trajectory into the recalibrated anti-corruption crusade in Sierra Leone, which has gone after the wealth of corrupt, over Le:43,000,000,000 (Forty-Three Billion Leones) has been recouped and paid back to the government, including government stolen vehicles, a duplex building, and others. This strategy shall continue to make the criminal enterprise (corruption) a very risky and no-reward venture. This is what is required to provide the adequate disincentive needed to dissuade many from corruption. Where the recovery of stolen wealth is at the core of any anti-corruption campaign, the corruption can caution themselves.
As he has promised, we await the regular serialized press releases from the ACC indicating the actions and the recoveries made from this Audit Report, which has again suggested that many public officers and institutions have still not learned their lessons.