Sierra Leone Telegraph: 11 June 2019;
Hardly a week goes by these days, without news of a public official in Sierra Leone entering into an out of court settlement with the country’s Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) to repay stolen public funds.
Whilst some of the monies involved may be fairly small, for many ordinary Sierra Leoneans it is not the sum involved that matters but the principle of holding public officials accountable, which they say the ACC is now doing very well.
And if this trend continues, before long the culture of corruption in public life and impunity in high places, could significantly reduce in Sierra Leone – a country classed as one of the most corrupt in Africa.
Yesterday, the ACC issued a statement that it has entered into out of court settlement agreement with a Coordinator of the country’s national cleaning programme, to repay 40 Million Leones of misappropriated funds. (Photo above: President Bio launching national cleaning day).
“The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) wishes to inform the general public that it has entered into settlement agreement with Mr. Hamid Emoneh, in respect of misapplied funds meant for the National Cleaning Exercise,” the statement says.
Following the agreement reached with the ACC, Mr. Emoneh has now fully paid the Forty Million Leones (Le 40,000,000) that was misappropriated.
The ACC said it will return the recovered sum to the Mayor of Freetown, as the funds were meant to be used to pay stipends to one thousand youths in the cleaning exercise at the end of April 2019, but was instead converted to personal use by the Coordinator acting in concert with other persons, while the workers went unpaid.
The ACC says it has also cautioned Mr. Hamid Emoneh, whilst his file is kept open, should there be a recurrence of such attempted corrupt use of public funds.
But the ACC is being accused of encouraging the very act it is trying to eradicate, by failing to recommend that the Coordinator be sacked, though saying it “wishes to reassure the public of its commitment to protecting government revenue at all times”.
Forty Million Leones may not sound like a lot of money, but it is the principle of holding public officials to account and for justice to take its course that matters, irrespective of the sum involved.
The ACC cannot afford to be seen to be inconsistent or flaky in its fight against corruption. So, the editor of the Sierra Leone Telegraph asked the Anti-Corruption Czar to explain why in this case the ACC has not recommended that the Coordinator be sacked.
The ACC Czar – Francis Ben Kaifala (Photo above) said: “Because it is administrative. Now that we have brought out the facts, the institution (Freetown City Council) can now take administrative steps. We have too many cases. We can’t prosecute all.”
Sierra Leone Telegraph: “Do you need to prosecute before recommending sacking?”
Francis Ben Kaifala: “Yes. Our laws only allow us to recommend sacking after conviction.”
Sierra Leone Telegraph: “Is this anomaly in the current ACC laws among the changes you put forward to parliament in the Amendment Bill? And what is the current status of the Amendment Bill in parliament?”
Francis Ben Kaifala: “It is one hundred percent among the changes the ACC has put forward to parliament in its ACC Amendment Bill. These are all things that the Amendment is geared to correct. Regarding the status of the Bill in parliament, it has gone through three readings. One last one, then final passing soon.”