A team from the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), led by Michael Sesay, Head of Public Education Unit, has started the rolling out of an anti-graft handbook to over 25 representatives from Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of Government, at the Commission’s office in the Northeastern city of Makeni, on 21 October 2021.The handbook, a practical toolkit to tackle corruption in public bodies, was developed and published with funds from the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA).
In his statement, Mr. Sesay identified corruption as a major hazard to national development. In addition to hampering foreign investments and creating bottlenecks in Government’s efforts to generate income, he cited impoverishing majority of the citizenry as some ills of unchecked corruption. Thus, he stressed, there is an urgent need to institute preventive measures to control and treat corruption just as any country would do to deal with a pandemic.
The Head of Public Education Unit further remarked that the Commission has made enormous strides to prevent graft primarily through extensive public education and systems and processes review works. The Public Education and Outreach Department of the Commission, for example, regularly educates the public on corruption, and the Prevention Department, amongst other things, conducts reviews on public institutions and proffer doable recommendations, all in an attempt to forestall corruption.
Mr. Sesay revealed that some MDAs have however defaulted on the ACC review recommendations mainly due to the absence of administrative will, compliance management and sanctions enforcement methods. He stressed that, as a new approach, the Handbook enforces compliance and prescribes penalties for non-compliance with the recommendations. ‘It is never business as usual. Non-compliant public institutions will be sanctioned without compromise. We are therefore popularizing this Handbook to guide you from being corrupt in your various institutions, he averred.’
Sylvester T. Sowa, Regional Senior Prevention Officer ACC, informed the officials and journalists at the engagement that Section 7 (2) of the Anti-Corruption Act of 2008 as Amended in 2019 primarily mandates the Prevention Department of the Commission to ‘examine the practices and procedures of public bodies’ to identify acts of corruption and reverse, through review recommendations, corruption vulnerabilities. He said his Department also conducts best-practice guidelines, all in an attempt to foster efficient and effective public service.
The Compliance Management and Sanctions Enforcement Procedure Handbook, Mr. Sowa added, outlines a clearly defined method to determine the rate of compliance of MDAs with ACC review recommendations. According to the Senior Prevention Officer, MDAs will be appraised on a score range from 0-100% on a quarterly timeline. An MDA whose compliance grade falls within 0%-49% is considered as non-compliant and liable for indictment. On a score within 50%- 79%, a warning letter will be served. Further engagements are prescribed for those whose grades fall within 80%-89%. And on the other polar end, grades within 90%-100% will win an award and a letter of congratulations from the Commission.
He further said that while a period of three months is given to a public body to effect prescribed changes to its operations, the public body can make a representation to the Commission within seven days if it finds the instructions undoable or obstructive to its duties.
Regarding penalties, Sowa maintained that the head of a public office which fails to comply with the ACC instructions commits an offence and will be liable to pay a fine not less than Five Million Leones once convicted as enshrined in Section 8, Subsection 4 of Act mentioned above. He therefore implored the officials to uphold best practices in executing their duties, and consider the ACC as a partner in development that is determined to stem the tide of corruption in public institutions in the country. ‘It is important to inform you that we should work on methods in effectively running public offices to deliver quality service to the public. The handbook is certainly the right tool to achieve that, he furthered.’
The participants asked several questions on relevant issues about the Handbook.