The Southern Regional office of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has organized a sensitization meeting on issues of integrity and accountability for local court chairmen and clerks of the Bo District Native Administration (NA). The meeting took place on Thursday 30th September 2021 at the NA Court No 1, Ngalu Road, Bo City.
In his statement, the ACC Regional Manager Momodu Sittar said, the relevance of local courts cannot be overemphasized because they are considered to be the harbinger of peace and societal cohesion. Mr. Sittar said that this institution which is supposed to strengthen justice and integrity has now been transformed into a safe haven for corruption. He said the Commission is not oblivious of some of the challenges the courts are confronted with, but they should not be used as a smokescreen to engage in illegal acts that will sow seeds of discord.
The ACC Regional boss admonished local court officials that the ACC will not turn a blind eye to any act of corruption being perpetrated without taking appropriate actions. He urged them to dispense justice within the ambit of the law, warning that “The Commission does not have the luxury of time to baby-sit anyone and this engagement serves as the final warning to local court authorities.”
Speaking at the engagement, Senior Public Education Officer Abdulai Saccoh said, though local court is the lowest in the justice sector architecture, yet it is strategic due to the number of people that access it to seek justice. Mr. Saccoh noted that local court officials are public officers and would be investigated by ACC if they engage in any illegal practices that amount to corruption. He catalogued some of the issues that are not only thorny issues of public concerns but have the potential to undermine the dispensation of justice at the local court such as: solicitations for bribes, non-issuance of receipts for fines, misuse of court funds, forgery of receipts, payment for bail, levying of excessive court fines, delay in passing judgment, disrespect for the rule of law, lack of integrity and improper handling of records. He described bribery as anything of monetary value solicited by a public officer or offered by any person as an inducement for the public officer to either carry out or abstain from carrying out his official duties. He appealed to them to be an embodiment of community peace, progress and cohesion.
Explaining some of the offences and penalties as enshrined in the Anti-Corruption Act 2008 as amended in 2019, Senior Investigation Officer Martin Tarawally reflected on some practices by local court officials in the guise of customs and traditions which are inconsistent with the provisions of the Local Court Act 2011 and which can trigger the intervention of the Commission. He said some of the practices are offences that will attract a fine not less Fifty Million Leones or five years imprisonment or both fine and prison term.
Public Education Officer Mohamed A. Kabba, in his submission said, the meeting was intended to heighten local court authorities’ understanding of the Local Court Act 2011, offences and penalties in the Anti-Corruption Act 2008 as amended in 2019 and shed light on some of the practices perpetrated by court officials that contravene the law. He called on them to serve their community diligently by ensuring they adjudicate all matters fairly.
Assistant District Officer, Bo District, Samuka Kawa expressed delight at the effort of the ACC to sensitize and remind them of the Anti-Corruption Act 2008 as amended in 2019, Local Court Act 2011 and also to guide them on how transparency and accountability would be promoted and enhanced. He appealed to the Commission to advocate on behalf of local court officials for better terms and conditions of service.