The just released Corruption Perceptions Index highlights that Sierra Leone is making little or no progress in ending corruption. This is because corruption in Sierra Leone, according to SLPP’s Hon. Tamba Sam of blessed memory, “is an Executive Order” which has become the rule rather than the exception.
Quoting former Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Eke Halloway in 2004, “If it wanted an overwhelming success, the Anti-Corruption Commission itself needs some iron buttons from the government.” This is where we are lacking!
Under the ruling All Peoples Congress led Government, it is ridiculous to state that the former Mayor of Freetown, Herbert George-Williams, his Chief Administrator and five others of the Freetown City Council after being convicted for corruption related charges to the tune of 1.4 Million United States Dollars were fine 35,000 United States Dollars or a jail term of three years. This ruling by Justice John Bosco Katutsi was a direct mockery to all Sierra Leoneans.
The ACC made this indictment in November, 2011 for various corruption and procurement violation offenses. The 25 count charges included monies that disappeared after the Morgan Heritage Concert amounting to Le. 744,450, general misappropriation of funds of Le. 1,047,216,300, failure to pay taxes in the amount of Le. 430,412,432, amounts deducted from employee salaries but never paid into their social security accounts at NASSIT. In Foreign currency the Mayor and co were charged with misappropriation of $19,000 and taking procurement related monies of $165,000. In total the Freetown City Municipality lost Le. 5,204,914,356 ($1.2 million on current exchange rate of Le. 4400 – $) and $184,000 to corruption in the council alone under the tenure of George-Williams.
Miraculously, the former National Revenue Authority boss, Allieu Sesay after being charged to Court for corruption, was acquitted on all 56 counts he was charged with. The former Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Kizito Daoh and seven others were discharged by the Court months after being charged by ACC lawyers for allegedly misappropriating millions of dollars of Global Alliance for Vaccinations and Immunizations (GAVI) funds. The examples abound.
The ACC’s existence is an irony to fighting corruption in the country. It is telling me to steal/misappropriate 50,000 United States Dollars and allow the ACC to indict me and later be convicted to pay 10,000 United States Dollars. The simple logic is, telling the convict to allocate at least 5,000 United States Dollars to pay any reputable law firm to defend him/her. With such ugly development, how is it possible for the ACC to win the fight? The ACC will always continue to be at the tail end of the fight in purging off corruption related cases.
It is a complete chagrin to mention the ACC Versus Haja Afsatu Kabba (Former Minister of Energy and Water Resources). The question asked by The Voiceless Sierra Leoneans is: Who suffers the brunt of the embarrassment? ACC initially won the case against Minister Afsatu Kabba in 2010, but after appealing through the Appeals Court-presided over by Justices Eku Roberts; Patrick Hamilton and Adeliza Showers, she won the case in 2013 on Friday, 29th November.
The ACC under Commissioner Joseph Fitzgerald Kamara made more indictments and lost more cases than were expected. At a press conference after the ruling in the ACC Vs Momoh Konteh’s case presided over by Justice Abdulai Charm (current Chief Justice), JFK (current Attorney General and Minister of Justice) told journalists that he has started doubting the credibility of the Judiciary, as he put it: “my confidence in the judiciary is shaken.” Momoh Konteh was indicted with five counts on 16th April 2012 after the aired documentary Aljazera International Television-Africa Investigates. In fact JFK described that Friday as a “sad moment for the justice system” in the country.
The Voiceless Sierra Leoneans are now asking, what has the new ACC Commissioner-Ade Macaulay done to act on the Auditor General’s report and recommendations? The Ebola fund is now history and the ACC thinks Sierra Leoneans are happy?
With all the numerous international treaties and convention signed by the Government of Sierra Leone to combat corruption, those engaged in it are always winning the race. For instance, with the OECD’s Anti-Bribery Convention, in 2005 the UN Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) was later entered into force, and by late 2013 had been ratified by the vast majority of its 140 signatories. With such international treaties, where do we stand in the fight to combat corruption?
The ACC faces serious challenges in spite of strides being made by the Commission to take the anti-corruption campaign to every nook and cranny of the country. In a bid to help combat corruption related offences, the ACC entered into a partnership with the Commonwealth Secretariat to assess successes, challenges and charting the way forward.
Despite the huge public cry and criticisms, the Commission has not relented to broaden the fight to a national scale. But these untiring efforts are being frustrated by the rulings in the courts. Could it be that the ACC’s lawyers have always had bad cases to be prosecuted?
In the midst of this tribulation, the Commission founded solace in the fact that they were able to recover Le10.1 billion in stolen public funds, which had been paid into the consolidated fund. With Ade Macaulay as the new ACC Commissioner, much has not been done apart from the most trumpeted outreach and numerous partnerships or the arrest of teachers for examination malpractices leaving out those rogue politicians.
The unanswered question is who audits the ACC? No wonder the University of Sierra Leone has not been audited for almost a decade. Today, Sierra Leone is among the worst performing regions in Sub-Saharan Africa (average score 32) yet the ruling APC Government will tell you we are extremely doing well in fighting corruption. Sierra Leone is ranked 130 below Liberia and Togo who are ranked 122 and 117 respectively.
Patricia Moreira, Managing Director-Transparency International notes, “No activist or reporter should have to fear for their lives when speaking out against corruption. Given current crackdowns on both civil society and the media worldwide, we need to do more to protect those who speak up.” The Voiceless Sierra Leoneans will continue to speak out until the Government takes the fight with utmost sincerity.
To recommend, the ACC under the leadership of Commissioner Ade Macaulay should advocate for a strong review of the current Act and go in for rigid punitive actions against all convicts.
The Assets Declaration Form/s should be made compulsory and defaulters should go without their salaries until the forms are filled. This is to make them more accountable to the people because they are receiving their salaries from tax payers’ money. This is the Pen of The Voiceless Sierra Leoneans.