Sierra Leone’s Anti-Corruption Commission needs sharper teeth

The Sierra Leone Telegraph: 10 March 2013

law courts building freetown29 public officials, including former deputy minister and a permanent secretary, were indicted last week on various corruption charges.

They are accused of stealing millions of dollars from funds meant to support the eradication of malaria in Sierra Leone, as well as other financial misdemeanours – uncovered by the country’s Audit Office in 2011.

The National Audit Report, published early this year, highlights the disappearance of Hundreds of Billions of Leones from the state’s coffers. But who bears the greatest responsibility?

The Report, which has left many disappointed that it had taken over two years before seeing the light of day, ought to have been published before the elections last November

president koroma2012But it is believed that the Office of the President had pressed on the Audit Commissioner not to publish the Report in 2012, as to do so would have caused serious political embarrassment and electoral risk for the government, on the eve of presidential and general elections.

Although rumours of the disappearance of the malaria funds donated by Microsoft founder – Bill Gates, had been running the mill for quite some time, it was the visit of Tony Blair to State House, after the elections, which finally forced president Koroma to allow the ACC to take action against those responsible.

But today, despite the indictment of 29 public officials, few believe that the ACC’s teeth are sharp enough to successfully convict those responsible and demand custodial sentence.

Although president Koroma has quite rightly given up the sham of proclaiming a strong commitment to a zero tolerance for corruption, his record so far suggests that he is happy going after the small fries, leaving his sacred cows to graze on the state.

Public sector contract procurements have been less than competitive. Tenders are being awarded to friends, political allies and family members of those in power.

poverty in sierra leoneThis is costing the state and the international community – Millions of Dollars, as goods and services delivered by contractors fall short of the required quality and quantity.

In some cases, nothing is delivered and contracts remain unfulfilled. No one is held to account.

Whiles many in Sierra Leone recognise that there is an Anti-Corruption Law in place and acknowledge the need for such a Law, few have faith in those responsible for enforcing the Law and bringing those at the top of the food chain to book.

Sierra Leoneans are yearning for the ACC to demand custodial sentences and for the courts to impose such sentences, as a real deterrent and punishment for those crimes.

Since president Koroma came to office in 2007, several high profile politicians and senior public officials have been indicted by the courts. But the rate of ACC’s success in gaining conviction is appallingly low.

At worse, those responsible have either been asked to pay fines of a few thousand dollars and or sacked from their jobs.

But some have simply been shifted to other similar jobs and sometimes more lucrative positions within the government, where they are said to be causing far more serious damage to the livelihood and life expectancy of the people of Sierra Leone.

The 2011 National Audit Office Report had singled out two major departments in the Koroma government, which it says must bear the greatest responsibility for the obscene levels of corruption by public officials.

These are: the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development (MoFed) and the National Revenue Authority (NRA). Both organs of state are classed by many as the lifeblood of one of the most impoverished nations in the World.

State House itself has not been exempted by the National Audit Report: Petrol receipts – totalling hundreds of millions of Leones and spending on several expensive luxury items – cannot be accounted for.

Joseph kamaraThe Anti-Corruption Commissioner – Joseph Kamara, who himself is a relative of the president, is earning more than he generates for the state – in fines and charges.

With a monthly salary of $14,000, the expectations of Sierra Leoneans regarding his performance and success in gaining convictions are quite rightly very high.

Many in the country believe that his contract and remuneration should be based on payment by results, as an incentive to work harder in securing better conviction rates.

But cynics say that he will not get conviction rates up, as long as political interference, nepotism and impunity are driving the work and direction of the Anti-Corruption Commissioner.

For now though, the ACC Chief is quite content with his current workload and president Koroma’s perception of his performance.

The president believes that his cousin – the former lawyer is doing a good job, and that’s all that matters.

The ACC, last week read out the following charge sheets of the 29 accused of stealing millions of dollars from the state. But these are said to be small fries, leaving several high profile ministers and senior officials unscathed:

The State Vs Dr. Matthew Michael Amara:

He is charged with 27 counts of conflict of interest, contrary to Section 45(3) and Misappropriation of Donor Funds, contrary to Section 37(1) of the Anti-Corruption Act, No. 12 of 2008, totalling Le 5,091,673,000 (Five Billion, Ninety-One Million, Six Hundred and Seventy-Three Thousand Leones).

The State Vs Dr. Matthew Michael Amara and Sahr Amara:

They are collectively charged with 38 counts of Misappropriation of Donor Funds, contrary to Section 37(1) of the Anti-Corruption Act, No. 12 of 2008, totalling Le2,310,707,900 (Two Billion, Three Hundred and Ten Million, Seven Hundred and Seven Thousand, Nine Hundred Leones).

The State Vs Bernard T.M. Dugba, Phillip Macauley and E.M. Kabba-Kamara:

They are collectively charged with 22 counts of Misappropriation of Donor
Funds, contrary to Section 37(1) of the Anti-Corruption Act, No. 12 of
2008, totalling Le 1,168,845,616 (One Billion, One Hundred and
Sixty-Eight Million, Eight Hundred and Forty-Five Thousand, Six Hundred
and Sixteen Leones).

The State Vs Dr. Kizito Daoh, Dr. Alhassan L. Sesay, Dr. Francis
Smart, Dr. Duramany Conteh, Dr. A.A. Sandy and Edward Bai Kamara:

They are charged collectively with 22 counts of Misappropriation of donor funds contrary to section 37 (1) of the Anti-Corruption Act, No. 12 of 2008, in the sum
of Le 118,157,534 (One Hundred and Eighteen Million, One Hundred and
Fifty-Seven Thousand, Five Hundred and Thirty- Four Leones).

The State Vs Dr. Magnus Ken Gborie, Dr. Edward Magbity, and Lansana
S.M. Roberts:

They are collectively charged with 17counts of Conspiracy to commit a
corruption offence contrary to law, and Misappropriation of Donor
Funds contrary to Section 37(1) of the Anti-Corruption Act, No. 12 of
2008, totalling Le 654,627,500 (Six Hundred and Fifty- Four Million, Six
Hundred and Twenty- Seven Thousand, Five Hundred Leones).

The State Vs Anita J. Kamanda and Abu Bakarr Sesay:

They are collectively charged with the offence of Misappropriation of donor funds contrary to section 37(1) of the Anti-Corruption Act, No. 12 of 2008, in the sum of Le 50,000,000 (Fifty Million Leones) and Le 49, 280,000 (Forty- Nine
Million, Two Hundred and Eighty Thousand Leones) respectively.

The State Vs Richard M. Kaimbay, Festus Mohammed Lansana, Patrick Mcarthy, Philip W. Macauley, Prince Moses Koh, and Mohamed Jalloh:

They are collectively charged with the offence of Misappropriation of Donor Funds, contrary to Section 37(1) of the Anti-Corruption Act, No. 12 of 2008, in the sum of Le 952,749,883 (Nine Hundred and Fifty- Two Million, Seven Hundred
and Forty- Nine Thousand, Eight Hundred and Eighty Three Leones).

The State Vs Francis J. Foday Musa:

They are collectively charged with the offence of Misappropriation of public funds contrary to section 36 (1) of the Anti-Corruption Act, No. 12 of 2008 in the sum of Le 54,793,300 (Fifty-Four Million, Seven Hundred and Ninety-Three Thousand Leones) and Le 56,568,240 (Fifty-Six Million, Five Hundred and Sixty-Eight
Thousand, Two Hundred and Forty Leones respectively).

The State Vs Mustapha Amara, Bob Peterson and Joseph Tewuleh:

They are charged collectively with counts of Conspiracy to commit a corruption offence contrary to law, and Dishonest appropriation of Donor Funds contrary
to Section 37(1) of the Anti-Corruption Act, No. 12 of 2008, totalling
Le142,483,667.31 (One Hundred and Forty Two Million, Four Hundred and
Eighty Three Thousand, Six Hundred and Sixty-Seven Leones, Thirty-One
Cents).

The State Vs Ishmael Kamara:

He is charged with 2 counts of misleading the Commission contrary to Section 127 of the Anti-Corruption Act No.12 of 2008.

The State Vs Sorie Gindeh Kamara:

He is charged with 6 counts of Misappropriation of Donor Funds contrary to Section 37(1) of the Anti-Corruption Act, No. 12 of 2008, in the sum of Le.281,000,000 (Two Hundred and Eighty-One Million Leones).

The State Vs Sahr Edison Tamaba:

He is charged with 2 counts of misappropriation of public funds contrary to Section 36(1) of the Anti-Corruption Act, No. 12 of 2008, in the sum of Le 88,837,000 (Eighty-Eight Million, Eight Hundred Thousand Leones).

Also, the ACC has ordered the arrest of twenty-two accused persons, who are now on bail, awaiting appearance at the High Court of Sierra Leone.

The ACC reported that it is also carrying out investigations into the findings of the 2011 National Audit Report. It says it is confident that many more officials will be indicted, once those investigations have been concluded.

“The Commission wishes to reassure the general public of its continued resolve in the fight against corruption in Sierra Leone” – says the ACC.

But will those bearing the greatest responsibility for these crimes – those running the departments – be held accountable for the mismanagement of public affairs, dereliction of duty and possible connivance with those accused so far?

Transparency International must ensure that its assessment of progress in fighting corruption, does not reward mediocrity – as is currently the case – simply because Sierra Leone has got Laws and institutions in place and the rate of indictment appears to be going up.

What is important is that Transparency International rewards toughness of action in convicting those at the top of the food chain, who are at the helm of governance.

Until it can do that, the Global Corruption Index, produced by Transparency International, will mean very little to the poor people of Sierra Leone, whose lives are being cut short, by the behaviour of a few crooked officials and their friends and families.

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