The Anti -Corruption Commission (ACC), through the Public Education Unit at its Northeast office in Makeni, has called on members of Mabontor and Maranda communities to strongly act against corruption. The two communities, which are located in Simiria Chiefdom in Tonkolili District, were addressed in two outreach meetings conducted on the 29th and 30th October 2021 respectively.
In his remarks, ACC Public Education Officer, Abdul Karim Bangura, explained that corruption is the misuse of public office for personal gain. This, he pointed out, suggests that corruption is perpetuated for self at the direct expense of the public. He further described it as the arch enemy that scuttles development efforts in the country. Giving Misappropriation of Public Funds and Property as instances of corruption, Mr. Bangura revealed that there are more than 27 corruption offences recorded in Part IV of the Anti-Corruption Act of 2008 as amended in 2019.
He informed the communities that although many people perceive corruption as only related to funds and property, it also encompasses any practice or conduct that is considered directly or indirectly harmful to the efficient and effective running of a public body or office. As such, a public officer who barters services for sex or deliver undue services to any preferred person or group of people at the expense of other citizens, for example, is equally corrupt.
Concerning penalties for corruption, the Public Education Officer stated that the ACC, which assumes the lead to combat corruption in the country by a 2000 Parliamentary Act, has stiffer laws to punish the corrupt and a division within the High Court. For instance, a person who is guilty of corruption is liable to pay a minimum fine of Le 50,000,000 or serve a minimum prison term of 5 years. Mr. Bangura further disclosed that besides the fine and prison term, the court shall order a corruption convict to fully pay any misappropriated amount into the Consolidated Revenue Fund.
According to him, the ACC may enter into a Non-Conviction Asset-based Recovery with a suspect to refund the amount misappropriated on a minimum 10% interest, and the person be excluded from office for at least three years. By the former, the Commission has secured over 30 Billion Leones from corrupt officers and institutions in the last three years, funds that have been deposited into the Consolidated Funds.
Public Education Officer, Aiah Sourie, in his contribution, referred to the engagements as a corruption prevention drive. He declared that the Commission has redoubled its efforts to impede the occurrence of corruption through awareness-raising sessions in communities as well as in institutions across the country. According to Mr. Sourie, in addition to deploying prevention officers in the regions, the Commission has recently published a Compliance Management and Sanctions Enforcement Procedure Handbook with funds from Open Society Initiative for West Africa. He said the handbook serves as a toolbox to determine compliance level of ministries departments and agencies with ACC System and Processes Review Recommendations.
Every member of the community, Mr. Sourie stressed, should adopt integrity, the ability to adhere to doing what is correct or required. To reject and report corruption to the Commission by calling 515 on Orange and Africell networks, he continued, is an admirable show of integrity and a sign of patriotism. Reporting corruption is crucial to the campaign against corruption and the image of the communities, he said. He however warned that the people should not concoct reports merely to vilify the image of people they are not in friendly terms with.
Finally, the Mr. Sourie guaranteed the people of Mabontor and Maranda that, although the fight against graft is daunting, it is certainly winnable. This assurance was based on the remarkable progress the Commission has made in the last three years. ‘Here are two clear signs that the Commission is gaining ground in its campaign against graft. Its Prevention Department has carried out several reviews on MDAs to arrest any corruption loopholes and proffer recommendations to promote quality service delivery to the public. Also, the National Anti-Corruption Strategy, which is informed by a wide range of views of Sierra Leoneans, and has implementation action plans to stop corruption in public institutions, is at full force,’ he said.
By and large, the two communities received the anti-graft messages with a pledge to resist and report corruption to the Commission. Regent Paramount Chief of the Chiefdom said: ‘We should support the ACC. Those who refuse or fail to report corruption are equally corrupt.Question and answer sessions and distributions of IEC material climaxed the meetings