“Our communities are backward not because the inhabitants are lazy but due to lack of understanding that issues of dishonesty should be exposed.”
The Paramount Chief (P.C), Bagbo Chiefdom, Raymond Brima Sese Koker II made this statement in a community sensitization meeting organized by the Southern Region Office, of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) on Friday 28th January 2022.
Speaking at the meeting in Jimmi Court Barray, Jimmi Town, Bagbo Chiefdom, Bo District, ACC Regional Manager, South, Momodu Sittar acknowledged the challenges rural communities are faced with, noting that, they can only be surmounted in an environment where there is enthusiasm to uncover the wrongs in society. “Until all of us agree to depart from the odd ways of doing things we will continue to be admirers of other countries who have put integrity at the centre of every national affair” Mr. Sittar underscored. He appreciated the level of patriotism often displayed by a number of public sector workers who in the midst of the challenging circumstance choose to serve diligently. Manager Sittar informed the participants of Sierra Leone’s continued remarkable progress in the World’s most respected corruption watchdog’s assessment and rakings. He mentioned that for the third time in three years the country progressed upwards in Transparency International’s Global Corruption Country Ranking, moving from 117 in 2021 to 115 out of 180 countries surveyed in the 2021 Transparency International Corruption Perception Index.
Manager Sittar explained a number of offences as enshrined in the Anti-Corruption Act of 2008 as amended in 2019 such as: offering, soliciting and accepting an advantage, conspiracy to commit corruption offence, gift, abuse of office, misappropriation of public funds/property, misappropriation of donor funds/property and abuse of position. He informed the participants that, conviction of any of the offences above would attract a fine of not less than fifty million Leones or a jail term of not less than five years or suffer both fine and imprisonment.
In his contribution, ACC Senior Public Education Officer, Abdulai Saccoh admonished the participants not only to listen but to take the required action to forestall corrupt practices in their communities. Mr. Saccoh shed light on a number of practices which do not only amount to corruption but as well do not sit well in a civilized society such as: levying of exorbitant fines, solicitation of bribes, abuse of discretionary power, misuse of school fees subsidy, extortion of money for bail, improper handling of chiefdom funds, mishandling of medical equipment and free health care drugs. Saccoh further said, ACC has always and will continue to put the nation's interest above all else. He stressed that the Commission will use the appropriate instrument not only to enhance transparency and accountability but to serve justice to offenders.
The ACC Public Education Officer, Yangie D. Sesay said, the meeting was intended to remind residents and stakeholders of their civic responsibility to support the ACC to put a dent on corruption. Madam Sesay emphasized that public participation is essential because corruption cannot be beaten in a disunited state. She assured the people of informant protection, dilated on the various reporting channels and shared the Commission’s toll free numbers 515, 077985985 but also advised them not to make malicious report because it is punishable by law. She called on the women of Jimmi Bagbo community to take the lead in the fight by ensuring that services that are meant to be free are not abused by public officers.
In another related activity, the ACC also sensitized staff and pupils of Government Secondary School, Jimmi Bagbo. The team expressed dissatisfaction on the issue of pupils paying bribes for grades and many other illegal acts noting that, the object of the free quality education will not be achieved in a corrupt environment. Staff and pupils were encouraged to call the toll free line to report their experiences of bribery in their schools and communities.