In its continued drive to ensure the transparent dispensation of justice in the Local Courts, a critical component of the justice sector that is accessed by over 65% of population, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has in a well-attended meeting, called on Chairmen and Clerks of Local Courts to arbitrate disputes and dispense justice in accordance with the spirit and letter of the Local Courts Act 2011 at all times. This plea was made on Thursday 25th November 2021, in a customized meeting organized by ACC Southern Region Office for officials of Local Courts in Bonthe District at the Native Court Barray One, Mattru Jong, Bonthe District.
In his statement, ACC Regional Manager, South, Momodu Sittar, said that the engagement was a testament of the Commission’s appetite to promote integrity and ethical principles across public service entities. Mr. Sittar asserted that ACC like many other bodies is seeking justice for the deprived majority by holding duty bearers accountable for their stewardship. He stated that justification of any sorts cannot be admissible for the perversion of justice. Manager Sittar appreciated the gallantry of Local Courts officials who continue to display rectitude and integrity in the arbitration of disputes as the natural law of justice demands, even in the face of huge challenges. He admonished his audience to execute their duties within the ambit of Local Courts Act 2011 and be guided by good conscience, as the Commission cannot turn a blind eye on injustices and other malfeasances perpetrated by public officers that are corruption related.
Speaking at the engagement, ACC Senior Public Education Officer, Abdulai Saccoh said the Commission does not pride itself to incarcerate people but rather to convert persons to accept and institute anti-corruption measures which would avert corruption vulnerabilities. Saccoh recognized that due to corruption, institutions that are regarded as pillars of integrity, supposed to hold society together are now mostly the habitat of discord. He asserted an environment which is infested with bribery, misuse of public funds, forgery of receipts, payments for bail, levying of excessive court fines, undue delays in passing judgments, then lack of integrity in the adjudication of matters becomes a challenge. He outlined certain provisions in the Local Court Act 2011 which do not only constitute the bulk of the public concerns that have been brought to the attention of ACC but comprise some of the issues that have precipitated the miscarriage of justice.
Addressing the participants, ACC’s Senior Corruption Prevention Officer South/East, Francis K. Lassayo asserted that the Commission has contributed immeasurably in accelerating development due to its relentless strides in ensuring that public and donor funds and resources are protected and accounted for at all times. Mr. Lassayo described the sensitization meeting as an affirmative action by the ACC to work with Local Court officials to address system weaknesses in their operations. He admonished Court Chairmen and Clerks to uphold integrity, transparency and accountability in order to change the public perception about their courts.
ACC’s Senior Investigation Officer, Martin Tarawally said laws are meant to guide society in order to ensure peaceful coexistence. He said as interpreters of the law it will be an unpardonable act for them to engage in any acts to circumvent the laws. Mr. Tarawally dilated on a number of offences as contained in Part Four of the Anti-Corruption Act 2008 as amended in 2019 such as; Abuse of Office; Abuse of Position; Gift, Offering, Soliciting and Accepting an Advantage, Misappropriation of Public and or Donor Funds or Property. He reminded Court Officials of the consequences that awaits anyone convicted of the above with a fine not less than Fifty Million Leones or imprisonment for a term not less than five years or suffer both.
The Public Education Officer, Yangie Deborah Sesay said the Commission decided to engage Chairmen and Clerks in a frank talk in order to draw their attention to a number of suspected illegal practices that are supposedly happening in the Local Courts and caution them against such.. She read out the ACC toll free lines and other reporting channels.
Assistant District Officer, Bonthe, Gassimu Sheriff said, they were pleased to
have ACC in their midst noting that such engagement will go a long way to
restore public trust and confidence in the operation of the Local Courts. He
assured the Commission on behalf of the Local Administration of their fullest
cooperation to adhere to the anti-corruption principles and work within the
ambit of the law.