Sierra Leone Telegraph: 30 June 2020:
Following allegations of the stealing of funds meant to cushion the impact of the recent three days lockdown enforced by the government of Sierra Leone last month, May 2020, the Anti-Corruption Commission has published a statement saying it has concluded its investigation into those allegations and found no evidence of misappropriation by public officials.
This is what the ACC says:
“The public may recall that sometime in May 2020, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) commenced investigation into allegations relating to misappropriation of public funds by officials of the National Commission for Social Action (NaCSA) and a staff of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), which came about from a video footage screened by the Africa Young Voices (AYV) Television on 12th May, 2020, in which, supposed beneficiaries expressed their frustrations over the payment of funds provided by the Government of Sierra Leone, to vulnerable people in the Bombali community, to cushion the effect of the three days lockdown, at 10 Arabic College Road, Makeni.
“Based on the above, the matter was carefully and promptly investigated and our findings reveal that, the list used to pay beneficiaries emanated from the various partners working with NaCSA and was not generated by NaCSA itself. It was further revealed that payment of beneficiaries commenced on Saturday 2nd May 2020 at the Makeni City Council and Two hundred and seventy-six people (276) were paid on that day.
“On Monday 4th May 2020, payment recommenced and payment teams were divided into two groups to expedite the payments to beneficiaries. Team One was headed by Brian Smart-Kanu and they paid beneficiaries at the Makeni City Council and Teko Veterinary. The other team was headed by Sheik Ahmed Bobor-Kamara; and Johnette Kanu, the ACC District Monitor, was part of this team. This team paid beneficiaries at National Commission for Persons with Disability (NCPD) office at Frontier Road and 10 Arabic College Road. Payments went well in all three payment points except, for 10 Arabic College Road, where there were alleged incidents of corruption as captured by the AYV video footage.
“Moreover, our investigations revealed that a Mary Kamara, also a beneficiary, residing at the 10 Arabic College Road admitted that she machinated and participated in the scheme of calling neighbours and passers-by to stand in as proxies for four registered beneficiaries who were absent on the day of the payment. These were: Isatu Kamara-Will, Fatmata Tarawalie, Isatu F. Koroma, and Sonita Koroma.
“Mary Kamara made a fraudulent agreement with the four persons that when they answer to the names of beneficiaries that were absent, Forty Thousand Leones (Le40,000) would be given to each of them (the proxies) as token reward for their stand-in for the absent registered beneficiaries and the remaining amount would be retained by her in trust for the legitimate beneficiaries.
“The Paying team was not aware of these illicit arrangements and the investigations has not led to any evidence to show that the NaCSA team solicited and/or received any money from Mary Kamara or any of her fraudulent proxies.
“In light of the above, the Commission has no clear evidence of misappropriation of funds by officials of NaCSA and/or their partners; but there is a clear situation of weak policies, in some instances no procedures as to how to undertake such ventures. Adequate measures were not put in place to forestall corrupt activities by staff of NaCSA, its partners and the beneficiaries because of the rush to implement the safety net Cash Transfer Payment by the Government, and the sudden announcement of the pending lockdown due to Covid-19 spread fears.
“More importantly also, there was no identity check of beneficiaries before payments were effected which left room for duplicity and lack of transparency in the process.
“Therefore, the Commission is recommending for a review of the policies surrounding such payments as the process around it appears to be mostly ad hoc; which leaves room for corruption and corrupt practices in the list generation, payment and fraudulent activities by some disingenuous beneficiaries – as it happened in this case.
“In conclusion, the ACC will not prosecute any staff of NaCSA and or its partners as there is no evidence that points to their involvement in the extortion of beneficiaries or that establishes criminal responsibility contrary to what was presented in the print, electronic and social media.”