The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has, on Wednesday 6th October 2021, at its Cathedral House Office, dialogued with High Level Stakeholders in the implementation of the Social Safety Net (SSN) project, aimed at addressing challenges encountered in the payment of beneficiaries. The Stakeholders included high-profiled representations from the National Commission for Social Action (NaCSA), the World Bank, Statistics Sierra Leone and Rokel Commercial Bank.
Addressing the stakeholders, the ACC Commissioner, Francis Ben Kaifala Esq., said the ACC was pleased with the efforts of all stakeholders present, noting the positive impacts and success stories of the SSN project. He assured them that the ACC had and shall continue to do its utmost to ensure the integrity of the project in sustained. He further stated that a project which is intended to mitigate the harsh effects of poverty on our people must not be susceptible to administrative bottlenecks that would undermine its smooth running.
“The ACC was aware that the payment process has been clogged for quite too long, causing delays that are having reverberating effects on our people. We are not blaming anyone specifically for this; but it is certainly not the fault of our poor vulnerable compatriots, who are the beneficiaries. It is the fault of some people here, who are paid to work on behalf of our people but have failed to put in their best. The people should not be allowed to suffer the consequences of what is not their making. This situation has to stop. Why the marathon delays in reconciling the data? Is it a problem that cannot be fixed? Which I doubt, we have to provide answers to our people and I called you here so we can chart the way forward” Mr. Kaifala added.
The ACC Commissioner urged the stakeholders to build the capacity of their personnel for effective service delivery, robust supervision and follow up on assigned tasks, hold personnel accountable for any defaults in their assigned duties and provide them the appropriate logistics to enable them work. These are crucial if we have to accomplish our tasks. The ACC will continue to partner and support you, but we cannot allow excuses for things we can and should do, Ben Kaifala averred.
Earlier, whilst welcoming partners to the meeting as Chairman, the Deputy Commissioner ACC, Augustine Foday Ngobie underscored the need for regular high level consultative meetings in order to address challenges and concerns of the public. He stated that following a lull of over six months in the payment of the unconditional cash transfer to SSN beneficiaries across Sierra Leone, in the sum of One Million, Three Hundred and Nine Thousand Leones (Le: 1,309,000.00), representing three quarters in March 2021, the ACC which superintends the Grievance Redress Mechanism (GRM) of the project, had been inundated with concerns from beneficiaries expressing fears and suspicions on the seeming lack of communication related to further payments.
Mindful of its commitment to the public and desirous of maintaining public trust and confidence, the Deputy Commissioner furthered, the leadership of the ACC called the stakeholders to have a conversation around the challenges and collectively work to addressing the barriers that are creating the hindrances.
In his statement, the Deputy Commissioner NaCSA, Jimmy Batilo Songa, thanked the ACC for the timely intervention. He stated that as the major Implementing Partner, NaCSA have been seriously concerned with the clogging and had engaged the World Bank and Rokel Commercial Bank since August 2021, working round the clock to ensure the data gap was cleared and the reconciliation completed. He stated that the reconciliation work was already 90% completed and the remainder will be done at the field. “We are servants of the people and we are paid from their taxes. When we promise them, they must get what is due them’’, Mr. Songa stated passionately. He pledged NaCSA’s commitment to ensuring that the pending payments and all other activities would be carried out swiftly.
Deputy Managing Director, Rokel Commercial Bank, Emmanuel Borbor, in his contribution stated that, the data gap did pose a serious threat to the reconciliation work, but with support from NaCSA and the World Bank teams, it has been largely cleared. He stated that they have learned lessons from the disruptions in their operations and obliged his institution’s commitment to the provision of quality, timely and effective services for the beneficiaries. He stated that to prevent reoccurrence, joint additional capacity building has been provided for key Rokel Commercial Bank and NaCSA staffs that shall be involved in the cash transfer exercise.
The World Bank Team Lead, Dr. Abu Kargbo thanked the ACC for the intervention. He stated that the World Bank was concerned with the holdup in the reconciliation as it is a major accountability requirement. Dr. Kargbo also stated that, they were satisfied with the amount of work already put into addressing the challenge and encouraged all stakeholders to ensure the terms of the project are adhered to.
Director of Operations at Statistics Sierra Leone, Dr. Mohamed Korjie, called on all to invest into proper planning and diligent work.
The next payment, which is expected to commence next week, shall cover two quarters only, with the provision of Three Hundred and Thirty Six Thousand Leones (Le: 336,000.00) per quarter to every beneficiary. Therefore, each beneficiary will receive a total amount of Eight Hundred and Seventy Two Thousand Leones (Le872,000.00) for two quarters, unlike the previous payment which was for three quarters and amounted to One Million, Three Hundred and Nine Thousand Leones (Le1,309,000).
©Public Education and Outreach Department ACC