Sierra Leone parliamentarians still refusing to account for public funds

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 3 October 2016

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Millions of dollars of donor funds granted to parliamentarians in Sierra Leone, cannot be accounted for. Can Sierra Leone’s Anti-Corruption Commission step into the country’s parliament to demand that elected members whose behaviours are now being called into question, some say dishonourable, must be held accountable?

That is the question which now faces the head of the country’s Anti-Corruption Commission – Mr. Ady Macauley, after a letter was sent today to the Speaker of parliament by rights group – Campaign for Human Rights and Development International (CHRDI), once again demanding accountability for millions of dollars of donor funds.

Three months ago, CHRDI published a statement calling on all elected parliamentarians in the country to account for the funds they receive annually for the development of their respective constituencies.

But it seems parliamentarians in Sierra Leone do not take too kindly to being called to account by the people who elected them to serve. Rather than honourably opening up their books to public scrutiny, they went on the offensive, intimidating and threatening to arrest CHRDI officials.

grand corruption in africaFollowing the intransigent and bellicose behaviour of those responsible for managing the affairs of parliament, CHRDI issued another statement, saying: “….despite our genuine call on the House of Parliament to engage their constituents who have raised genuine concerns about how they have been conducting themselves on their behalf, the Honourable Members of Parliament have been busy calling press conference and embarking on an exercise of intimidation and threats to crackdown on social media, journalists, and possibly punish media houses that have been granting our organisation interviews and publishing our press releases in Sierra Leone.“

Although some honest parliamentarians have broken ranks to inform the public that indeed they and their colleagues had received millions of dollars which are unaccounted for, there has been no effort on the part of the Anti-Corruption Commission or the parliamentary committee responsible for policing itself, to investigate these allegations and make its findings public.

corruption3But CHRDI has not given up. They are standing firm by their allegations and have today sent another letter to the Speaker of parliament, not only reminding him about their demand for accountability, but referring to specific donor funds that have not been accounted for.

Will the Anti-Corruption Commission investigate the country’s legislators that many in Sierra Leone say are dishonourable and corrupt?

This is the letter addressed to the Speaker of parliament:

Letter to the speaker of parliament on major accountability issues

3rd October 2016

The Speaker of Parliament of Sierra Leone

Hon. Sheku Badara Bashiru Dumbuya

House of Parliament Tower Hill,

Freetown Sierra Leone

Dear Sir,

RE: CONCERN OVER FAILURE TO ACCOUNT FOR FUNDS FROM TAXPAYERS AND INTERNATIONAL PARTNERS TO THE HOUSE OF PARLIAMENT IN SIERRA LEONE

We want to first of all express our appreciation for the amount of attention you and your Honourable Members of Parliament gave to our call for the House to be accountable to the people of Sierra Leone.

We thank you very much for helping us raise the awareness. Since that happened, we have seen a marked change in the attitude of constituents towards their Members of Parliament, in terms of asking them to give account of their custodianship of funds meant for the development of their constituencies.

At the national level, we believe that our Accountability Campaign has also given a deeper meaning to fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution of Sierra Leone, legislated obligations on the Sierra Leone government and specifically the people’s representatives in Parliament.

We hope we shall continue to work together towards changing the narrative of our national development, in which you have a very key role to play.

Mr Speaker we are raising these issues again because the House of Parliament has failed to provide the information we asked for in our last press release. As a Human Rights and development organisation, we are very eager to know sir and we are sure the majority of Sierra Leoneans are also eager to know.

Therefore, we are kindly requesting that you do not deny us and the people of Sierra Leone that God-given opportunity to experience the culture of strong regulation of and oversight over both public and private funds, an opportunity that is crucial for democracy, the public interest and development.

Sir, we wish to reiterate our demand for you to encourage the Honourable Members of Parliament and the Administration of Parliament to endeavour to disclose all documents detailing how members of the Sierra Leone parliament and officials of parliament spend the Community Development and Constituency Facilitation funds, expense allowances and capacity building training funds provided by international development partners and Sierra Leonean taxpayers.

Mr. Speaker, we are very concerned that for all these funds received, we are yet to see the amount of impact they have had on changing the mind-set of Members of Parliament and the development of their constituencies.

Furthermore, we wish to draw your attention to a number of issues that we believe implicates your mandate as a Speaker: 1. The Anti-Corruption Act, 2008, PART IV, 36 (1) and (2) and 37 (1), which talks about misappropriation of donor and public funds or property.

36 (1) states that a person who misappropriates public revenue, public funds or property commits an offence and 36 (2) states that a person misappropriates public revenue, public funds or property if he willfully commits an act, whether by himself, with or through another person, by which a public body is deprived of any revenue, funds or other financial interest or property belonging or due to that public body.

37 (1) states that any person who, being a member or an officer or otherwise in the management of any organization
whether a public body or otherwise, dishonestly appropriates
anything whether property or otherwise, which has been donated to
such body in the name, or for the benefit of the people of Sierra Leone or a section thereof, commits an offence.

2.The United Nations Convention against Corruption, which the government of Sierra Leone signed up to on the 9th Dec 2003, ratified on 30th Sep 2004, and put it into force on 14th December 2005.

Article 10-(C) of United Nations General Assembly resolution 58/4 of 31 October 2003 in the Convention against Corruption, requires you to publish information, which may include periodic reports on the risks of corruption in its public administration.

In the same convention, Article 13,(a),(b),(d)-Participation of society 1, says, “each State Party shall take appropriate measures, within its means and in accordance with fundamental principles of its domestic law, to promote the active participation of individuals and groups outside the public sector, such as civil society, non-governmental organizations and community-based organizations, in the prevention of and the fight against corruption and to raise public awareness regarding the existence, causes and gravity of and the threat posed by corruption.

This participation should be strengthened by such measures as: (a) Enhancing the transparency of and promoting the contribution of the public to decision-making processes; (b) Ensuring that the public has effective access to information; (d) Respecting, promoting and protecting the freedom to seek, receive, publish and disseminate information concerning corruption/

Mr. Speaker, by signing up to the 2013 United Nations Convention on Anti-Corruption and in passing the 2008 Anti-corruption Act, the government committed itself to the practical implementation of accountability and transparency, and opened itself to scrutiny by both global and local partners.

Mr Speaker, in view of the above, we are urging you to ask your Honourable members and officials of the Sierra Leone parliament to cooperate with our campaign by making the Sierra Leonean taxpayer know how monies received by their representatives for and on their behalf have been used.

We believe that it is only by doing so that your parliament will deliver real transparency on their work and proper accountability to our development partners.

Mr. Speaker, we have evidence that within 2011-2016, funding was provided to Parliament by the following donor organisations and we think little has been reported on how they were expended.

  1. Africa Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF) Project: Capacity Building for the Parliament of Sierra Leone (National Parliaments and Parliamentary Institutions). Project start date: 2012 Project end date: 2016. Project Amount: $2 000 000 (two million US dollars)
  2. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) – from the country Consolidated fund account: Project: UNDP Support to Sierra Leone Parliament. Project start date: 1 January 2008. Project end date: 31 December 2016 Project amount: $1,692,603 (one million, six hundred ninety-two thousand, six hundred three US Dollars) for 2011 to 2015.

We are also aware that a total amount of LE 41,683,667,028 was received by Members of Parliament between 2011 and 2016 for Community facilitation and community development funds.

Mr. Speaker sir, we want to see those funds properly accounted for. On that note, we would like to inform you that we are extremely alarmed by the recent actions of some Members of Parliament, which we think are designed to deny or frustrate genuine and legitimate requests for accountability about the use of taxpayer’s monies and partnership development funds.

Since we launched our Accountability Campaign in late-July this year(2016), we have seen an increase in surveillance of activists and civil society and the ever-more strident and antagonistic rhetoric from some quarters in government that have cast civil society organisations as “agents of foreign interests”(political parties/party). In conclusion, we want to make it very clear to you that we are not targeting Parliament for the sake of targeting them.

Our main focus is on the ordinary constituents and how they can be in better control of their representatives in Parliament, promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.

Our aim is to improve and ensure the effective implementation of the anti-corruption legislation in respect of parliamentarians and other government officials.

We in CHRDI regard the inconsistent application of anti-corruption laws and policies, the weak capacities and lack of independence of the major institutions in charge of fighting corruption are the key drivers of our failure to develop as a nation.

We hope this letter is received in good faith and look forward to a more meaningful engagement by you and your Honourable members on all the issues we have raised. We look forward to a response from you at your earliest convenience with thanks.

Yours Sincerely,

ABDUL M FATOMA

Chief Executive CHRDI

COPY: The Commissioner Anti-Corruption Commission Cathedral House 3 Gloucester Street Freetown

Note: Campaign for Human Rights and Development International (CHRDI) is a Rights based social-policy advocacy Organisation. We Draw attention to the responsibility of duty-bearers to uphold human rights, and seek to support rights-holders to claim their rights. CHRDI is in Special Consultative Status to the United Nations Economic and Social Council and accredited to many UN Agencies.

3 Comments

  1. Joseph Blackie, I must first of all apologize for not responding earlier to this call for a noble crusade. I feel honored to be part of the civil society movement you belong. There is a need to go on with endless action in order to materialize ideas and put them in practice.

    It is for us Sierra Leoneans to step up and make our voices heard to redress the ills of the governance system in our country which have been recurrent with all governments in this country. I would be pleased to participate in your radio programs whenever is needed.

  2. Abdul, thanks for such eye opening move to make duty bearers accountable to the right holders. Parliamentarians have failed the electorates and the citizens of this noble Country.

    I am part of the Civil Society Movement of Sierra Leone and will want to push forward with your campaign in the South, through a Good Governance program on Radio Newsong on Fridays 1AM-3AM. Add your voice to ours for a better country. Thanks.

  3. CHRDI, Sierra Leoneans expect you not to relent in your effort to clarify the embezzlement of state and donor support funds meant to better the living standards of the people, for which our parliamentarians have refused to account

    Upon all the millions of dollars grant allocated to our parliamentarians for attending the needs of the people they represent, it had made no impact on the lives of the citizens. Since your organization first raised concern on the matter, there has been no response and no statement from our government, nor the leadership of the nation. The issue is given less attention and downplayed by government; no official position has been made known to the citizenry.

    Given the importance and gravity of the parliamentarians’ immoral behavior, no matter how this issue is treated by state authorities, your legitimate pursuit of the case is worthy of commendation, and the people are grateful for being their mouthpiece and defense to their frustration.

    The right approach with which you pursue this issue will attract other international organizations, including our donors and creditors to lend you their moral support to dig into this issue and come out with meaningful result.
    The immense majority of Sierra Leoneans will rally behind you to provide you with the impetus to pursue this issue earnestly.

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