By: Alex A. Bah, Communications Officer, ACC.
Education most notably is the bedrock of development and the primary machinery for growth. As such, it is strategically positioned on Goal 4 of the global Sustainable Development Goals, and countries across the globe are encouraged and provided with some support to enhance this sector. In Sierra Leone, the drive of the present dispensation under His Excellency, Brigadier (Rtd.) Dr. Julius Maada Bio, preeminently hinges on the Government’s commitment to human capacity development, hence a huge chunk of the country’s budget is allocated to this sector.
The sad recent trend of a said Dominion Christian University, alleged to illegally confer degrees and other qualifications, has initiated public discourse and raised serious concerns on the status and standards of education in Sierra Leone. This has also precipitated scary revelations of institutions, like that of the African Graduate University, allegedly said to have awarded various qualifications without any such capacity and legitimacy, as clearly stated in the press release from the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) issued on the 8th April, 2022.
In that regard, there have been calls from different sections of the public for the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) to initiate investigations. Whilst some of these calls are as a result of the huge trust the Commission has earned and the public confidence reposed in its work, it is however, important to assert that, the ACC should only heed to these recent frantic calls, if its mandate and scope so requires. In all of these calls, it is worthy to note that the existence and work of the Commission is exclusively guided by the 2008 Anti-Corruption Act as amended in 2019.
Pursuant to the said Act, Section 128 (3) states that “A person who engages in corrupt activity or practice, in a programme organized or conducted by an educational institution or examination body, to confer an advantage on himself or another person, commits an offence”. This is all the power the Commission has, as provided by the above stated section. In this context hereto, as unfortunate as dishing out concocted qualifications as it may be, it can only be a corruption offence that falls under the jurisdiction of the ACC, when the said recipient uses such qualification as a requirement and qualification to acquire a job and be remunerated for it from public funds.
Therefore, if a person is employed as a public officer, and the qualification required is a degree, and the person submitted a degree that will be proven to be fake, then the person has allegedly committed an offence. Similarly, if a person was employed though with a legitimate qualification, but acquired what would later be discovered as a faulty qualification as a requirement to earn him/her promotion, the person has equally suspectedly committed an offence.
However, what is critical in all of this is the advantage. This presupposes that if a public officer is being employed and the qualification required at the point is accurate, and along the line acquired a qualification that will later be proven to be faulty, hence it does not relate to the above, there is no case of corruption there. While it is clearly an academic crime, and is a serious ethical issue that must be addressed, it is not tailored within the powers of the ACC and the Commission cannot act without having the locus standi.
The ACC’s scope is clear on this, and does not encapsulate all crimes even within the purview of education or the public sector. It relies on collaboration with other bodies as they share largely similar mandates amidst their clearly distinct responsibilities. There is the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) and the Ministry of Technical and Higher Education (MTHE) that regulates education at that level. Whilst the ACC often provides support by the approach of systems review, the mandate to maintain standards squarely falls within their respective purview. Nonetheless, the Commission when need be intervenes within the parameters of its power, and not act outside of its mandate and scope.
Of importance also is, Government institutions such as, the Human Resource Management Office (HRMO), the Public Service Commission (PSC), the Public Sector Reform Unit (PSRU) and institutional Human Resource Departments/Units are established bodies with mandates that require them to ensure the most qualified persons are distilled into and constitute the public workforce. There is also the Sierra Leone Police that has a broad mandate to look into various instances of crimes and fraudulent activities.
In conclusion, let us endeavor to understand the workings of the ACC better, rather than place the burden upon her which is not supported by Law.
©Public Relations Unit, ACC