By: Edward N. Blake, Senior Public Education Officer, ACC
The Public Education team of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) in the Eastern Regional head quarter town of Kenema, on 8th February 2024,dialoguewith students and some Lecturers of the Eastern Technical University (ETU), in what can be described as A FACE TO FACE CONVERSATIONon the dangers of corruption and how it has damaged every fabric of society, especially the University system.
It must be emphasized that this engagement is coming barely after the indictment of the Assistant Finance Officer for ETU, Sheku Abdulai Kamara on 26 count charges of misappropriation of public funds by ACC.
Earlier in his welcome statement, the Public Relations Officer, Eastern Technical University, Augustine Amara Kanneh said the visit of the ACC was timely as they are preparing for their first semester Examinations. The PRO further said that ETU has enjoyed a convivial relationship with the ACC all these years and hope to strengthen it. He however encouraged the students to pay keener attention on issues relating to examination malpractices.
Giving a brief history of the ACC and its mandate, Senior Public Education Officer of the Commission in Kenema, Edward N Blake said that the Anti-Corruption Commission is a product of the recommendations proffered by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). He said immediately after the 11years rebel war of Sierra Leone, the TRC was formed primarily to look at the antecedents of the war. Amongst which CORRUPTION stood out as one of the majorcauses. It was therefore recommended by the TRC that anInstitution/Commission whose sole responsibility shall be to fight Corruption be established.
Mr Blake did a quick rundown on the various Departments of the Commission and their functions highlighting with much emphasis, the MEET THE UNIVERSITY CAMPAIGN as one of the activities of the Public Education and Outreach Department. He concluded by soliciting the support of the students and lecturers, to creating and strengthening an ACCOUNTABILITY NOW CLUB that will serve as an integrity hub on campus to checkmate any acts of corruption and corrupt practices.
Updating students and lecturers ofETU on gains and progress made in the fight against corruption, the Regional Manager ACC in Kenema, Peter Baio Kamara said, Sierra Leone is performing far more better in the fight against corruption now than ever before. He said both national and international data are speaking to that. The most recent improvement from 110 to 108 on the Transparency International Perception Index, 2023 with a score of 35 above the Sub-saharan average and the 58% approval rating in the Afro-barometer Report 2022/2023, is a vote of mass confidence in our collective effort, Mr. Kamara asserted.
Speaking on the dangers of examination malpractices, Patrick Hinga George, Public Education Officer ACC,underscored the short term effect asthe‘feel-good-effect’, whilst the long term is, the erosion of the socio-economic development of the country. He warned against sexually transmitted grades. Mr George also outlined few corruption offences and their corresponding penalties stating that, besides the stipulated minimum 5-years or Le 50,000 fines,the presiding Judge can as well slam both fine and prison term.
Highlighting the importance of the new Asset regime, Mr. George said it helps the Commission to keep track of assets, income and liabilities of all public officers of Grade 7 and upwards, thereby addressing issues regarding possession of unexplained wealth. Ignorance of the law is no excuse, and the law is no respecter of persons, George cautioned.
In her submission Madam Abibatu Abu-Mattia,Regional Prevention Officer, ACC East,implored the students to can join the fight against corruption by serving as whistleblowers. She also encouraged them to resist, reject and report any acts of corruption as and when they see it. An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of prosecution, Madam Abibatu furthered.
Questions which were responded to by staff of the ACC, formed part of the engagement.