Corruption is rife across Sierra Leone’s banking sector

CHRDI: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 10 July 2019:

There is widespread and systematic corruption within the banking sector in Sierra Leone. There is evidence to suggest that regular and widespread criminality has been committed by the financial services industry for several years. Chiefly among which, is the lack of due diligence on politically exposed persons – government ministers.

Accountability and transparency need to be restored to the financial services industry, as confidence in the economy is built on the essential pillar of trust.

The financial industry must not be able to commit and profit from controlled fraud and money laundering, despite this is becoming a way of life for some bankers.

Financial sector firms should ensure that any engagement in high-corruption contexts proceed according to international norms of transparency and accountability.

Corruption and bribery profoundly affect vulnerable communities, either by misdirecting funds that could be spent on healthcare, education, or other public goods, or by preventing participation in the democratic process.

The most disturbing information reaching us at CHRDI is that the banks have been engaged in shady activities, for which the Central Bank, Bank of Sierra Leone is yet to provide satisfactory explanations.

There is strong public suspicion that the Banks are in the habit of diverting state revenues into private ownership. According to evidences we have obtained, it is alleged that the UBA Bank in Sierra Leone engaged in similar activities. This is a serious dent on the financial sector’s already battered image.

CHRDI’s investigation of both National Social Security Trust (NASSIT) and the National Revenue Authority (NRA) has unearthed further evidence pointing to criminality in lending by the UBA Bank in Sierra Leone.

At one point, a highly suspicious movement of state funds took place within a separate account operated at the bank and the NRA, named SLL54012527004 (Account name – Account payable).

The amount involved is Le754,969,279.66. This sum was diverted from Account payable A/C with a debited narration (Additional Tax Assessment Year 2012 and 2013) and credited Transit account at Charlotte Street.

Evidence we have gathered from staff and victims of human rights abuses in the banking sector, confirms that corruption disproportionately impacts the poor more than the rich in Sierra Leone.

Increasing risks of fraud and corruption should serve as a wake-up call that even the best run financial institutions can be victims.
It is an established fact that cunning employees and third parties bent on criminal intent can cause irreparable harm to the financial sector.

This will damage public confidence in the government, slow down the delivery of services and the provision of public goods.

It can also divert public funds to unlawful ends and reduce political competition, democratic and economic development, social equality and the rule of law.

A catalogue of failures in the design and enforcement of anti-money laundering laws has enabled banks to help politicians from some of the most corrupt political parties to use government money to fund lavish lifestyles, while their constituents and the general population live in poverty.

Many of the direct human rights risks and issues faced by the finance sector are generic to all businesses, such as those relating to the treatment of employees, example as alleged in a particular case at the UBA Bank, Sierra Leone, where staff were reported to have been subjected to inhuman treatment.

We have evidence that a former staff who was alleged to have been involved in fraudulent activities and was taken to the CID for further investigation and put in detention for two weeks but he continued to provide service to the bank whilst in detention.
In another incident, a female staff was arrested and locked up for 24 hours and later sacked for non-valid reasons.

Several Sierra Leonean citizens who work in the financial sector continue to face human rights abuses. We have recorded a high number of these alleged abuses which can qualify for possible legal action against the banks; and we are calling on more people to come forward with their stories.

For example, the Ecobank has been recently updating their customer details and the banks software system. After working a full week (Monday to Friday) the bank has been forcing its staff to also work on Saturday and Sunday throughout the months of May and June without any additional pay and rest. Young mothers are forced to abandon their children and families over the weekend. Many can’t even attend church. We believe that this is nothing short of inhumane.

In 2011, the UN Human Rights Council unanimously endorsed the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (Guiding Principles), the first international instrument to assign companies the responsibility to respect human rights. The responsibility to respect human rights, as defined by the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (“the Guiding Principles”), requires that business enterprises adhere to the following:

(a) avoid causing or contributing to adverse human rights impacts through their own activities, and address such impacts when they occur

(b) seek to prevent or mitigate adverse human rights impacts that are directly linked to their operations, products or services by their business relationships, even if they have not contributed to those impacts.

CHRDI Director – Abdul Fatoma

Since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in 1948, the responsibility to protect human rights has primarily fallen on governments.

In the early 2000s however, it became increasingly clear that the freedoms enshrined in the framework could also be violated and promoted by the private sector.

CHRDI is more committed than ever to continue the fight against corruption in Sierra Leone, wherever it occurs and it shall continue to be a critical part of our organisation’s work to end extreme poverty.

About CHRDI

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. Indeed,if money is the root of all evil,it seems to me,these guys want the whole damn tree,leaves,twigs,branches,and all – better to offer a Banker wads of money,I think instead of blessed Salvation,because he will never be courageous enough to accept any wrong doing,and confess the truth.

    Here’s a man that is not ashamed to boldly admit in this glorious,transparent, 21st Century,that the substandard,inadequate attitude of a prominent Bank,UBA has not been outstanding in their treatment of their cherished employees. These people are clueless,and outright insensible – that’s enough,and more in my view, to tarnish,and shred to pieces,the integrity of any progressive institution right there.

    In case,they are not aware,the rights of workers according to the laws of labor cannot be compromised in any way whatsoever – either you measure up,and meet those requirements or you don’t. You can’t have it both ways; being lukewarm is an offence, unacceptable.

    I said it once before before,now let me reiterate – CHRDI has to muster public support, gather,and haul these criminals resembling scattered waste bundles,no longer good to society,and dump them straight into the merciless compactors of Justice,to be assessed,and then sent to Prison. It is there,they will be processed,refined and made fit enough to live,and become as law abiding citizens once again.Why the snail-slow delay?

    If you lack the financial ability to initiate the legal process,then solicit donations from across the globe. Many of us will be willing to contribute when we find out that you are really serious about enacting this much needed change in our beloved nation. Drag them to Court – they are miscreants,and scoundrels our society can live without. Rising Sun Will Rise Again.

  2. While it is true that the United Bank for Africa has been less than stellar in their treatment of staff, the suggestion of financial impropriety in this article is mischievous and borderline criminal. Transit accounts are not accounts used to divert funds and state resources.

    Transit accounts exist as a temporary abode for new funds before an account has been opened. Transit accounts in general store deposits that are in transit.A deposit in transit is money that has been received by a company and sent to the bank, but has yet to be processed and posted to the account by the bank.

    An amount of over 700 million from the public sector usually requires longer processing time, because of the documentation required for such a transaction. Abdul Fatorma and his CHRDI should not make mammoth sized allegations that have the tendency to put the financial sector in disrepute without backing them up with sufficient evidence.

  3. Well,there it is – my good folks at CHRDI it seems presently, you have a lot of work to do. When will you ever find the courage,to drag the pernicious darkness, out into the glorious light for all to see? Why the procrastination,feet-dragging,and unnecessary waste of time? Be up,and doing!

    Drag them to Civil Court,and hold them accountable for their actions. These are hardened criminals,empty rhetoric,and idle threats are considered as nothing,looked,and frowned upon as though they were eggshells being trampled on,and crushed beneath their feet.

    Only the merciless,unforgiving, heavy lashes from the arms of the law,will make them neglect their shady,unscrupulous ways.It seems clear to me, the reasons you have outlined above,are more than sufficient,to proceed with legal action – the facts,and legal basis for your claims,are screaming from rooftops for you to start initiating a multitude of lawsuits against them,yet still an eerie silence prevails; not a single thing in that regard has been done.

    Please be kind enough,to correct me,if i am wrong! With such a lukewarm,passionless attitude,clearly being displayed for all to see,Why shouldn’t those degenerate individuals continue their corrupt,criminal ways? If you let a fox,enter a barn once,and carry a chicken away without firing a warning shot…What makes you feel he wouldn’t have the audacity to return,and ransack the whole place again,leaving dead chickens,feathers,and signs of struggle everywhere.

    Wake yourselves up! Be up,and doing.Time and tide waits for no man. Who knows,perhaps what is seen as a tiny crack today, tomorrow would have deepened into the size of a deep problematic gorge,and by then it will be a little too late to act. The time to move,as swift a lightning is now.

    Again,if the allegations of human rights abuses by ECO Bank,UBA ,and others in the financial sector after being investigated,are found to be true,then what plans,structures,policies,and ideas have you designed to combat,nullify,and correct such wrongs,and grave injustices? Are there formidable safety nets,to protect the rights of workers already in the works,waiting to be implemented?

    Please don’t tell me you are still in the process of debating on what to do.If that is the case,let me be frank,no one will ever take your organisation seriously – its time to let the dice roll,and put your money where your mouth is. Its quite simple,If you really care about something,then show it through diligence,commitment,and action.Yep,action – because its speaks volumes louder than what any words can ever say.

    Listen,like fishermen waiting to see if their nets are full with shoals of fishes,so will we also be expecting to hear news of those unremorseful criminals in the financial sector,that have been securely caught by the dependable nets of Justice. Ladies,and Gentlemen – Be up,and doing! Empty threats, rhetoric,and lengthy deliberations,just will not suffice! Rising Sun Will Rise Again.

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