Sierra Leone Telegraph: 19 January 2017
Doubts and concerns about the effectiveness and good governance of Sierra Leone’s Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) are refusing to go away.
One of the country’s human rights advocacy groups – the Campaign for Human Rights and Development International (CHRDI) is tonight accusing the ACC of lacking in sincerity, transparency and probity.
CHRDI is not only holding the ACC accountable, but is also calling on the country’s parliament to account for millions of dollars it had received to help tackle poverty and implement community development initiatives.
Last month, CHRDI published a scathing report into the ACC’s strategy in tackling corruption as well as its lack of proper accountability for funds it says the ACC is recovering from those being investigated, charged and indicted.
But the ACC has denied these accusations, though stopping short of publishing the evidence which CHRDI has insisted the ACC must publish to prove that CHRDI is wrong.
A Public Relations Spokesman for the ACC – Mr Alhassan Kamara has spoken to local radio about the charges CHRDI is making against the management of the ACC. He accuses the Chief Executive of CHRDI of waging a political campaign against the ACC.
But in response, CHRDI is calling for the ACC to be sincere in their dealings with the public and in responding to matters of transparency and probity.
Tonight they are asking the ACC to answer to more questions about their effectiveness in fighting corruption, as well as accounting for money recovered. This is what they say, and you can also listen (below) to the ACC official speaking on the local AYV Radio this week.
CHRDI’s attention has been drawn to a statement made on radio by an ACC official, claiming that our Chief Executive, Mr. Abdul Fatoma (Photo) is a politician and is using our organisation to score political points.
We at CHRDI consider this as a lazy tactic, machinated to deprive the ordinary Sierra Leonean a good opportunity to know how the ACC have been operating and/or have failed to deal with the real issues of corruption in the country.
We are in doubt as to why the Commission was expecting barometer results when we never informed them that we have done a public perception survey. Ordinarily, this would have been best ignored.
We are however constrained to inform the general public on account of the severe implications of the ACC’s dodgy attitude and failure to answer our legitimate questions from our report findings on their failure to tackle corruption effectively.
Our intention was to generate a genuine and unconditional interest in the issues we raised, but instead the ACC has adopted a typical approach used by most failed institutions in Sierra Leone, to deny questions tax payers are raising about poor performance and attack the personality of citizens who ask these questions.
We must say that we are very disappointed and are now of the conviction that officials of ACC are afraid to disclose fully how much money they have recovered from corrupt individuals and institutions for the past ten years.
We also wish to reiterate that our findings were critical and we shall continue to call on the ACC to be more professional in their response to our questions as we are poised to pursue this to its logical conclusion.
At this point, we will continue in our quest to expose the failures of the ACC by bringing out more information and raising more questions.
According to some of the information we have in our files, we are going to provide more comments on the 2013 -2014 key activities of the ACC:
As of June 2013, the ACC had received 590 corruption cases of which it assigned 77 to staff, completed investigations on 35, closed 8 without charges, held 6 for further investigation, issued warnings in 4, and sent 17 to court.
The ACC secured four convictions as of September. The High Court delivered acquittals in five cases, including a high-profile matter involving a close associate of the vice president, while the Appeals Court found for defendants in two more cases.
In March 2013, the ACC indicted 29 Health Ministry officials, including the Chief Medical Officer, on charges arising out of significant misappropriation of the GAVI Alliance funds earmarked for immunization projects.
As of September the High Court had dismissed charges against one defendant based on the government’s failure to prosecute and acquitted another on the basis that he had carried out only clerical tasks acting under the orders of his superiors.
By June 2013, the ACC recovered approximately 320 million Leones ($74,000) from public officers and private businesspersons in fines, restitutions, and settlements in corruption-related cases.
Although the ACC did not offer to settle cases out of court, suspects may request a settlement, and many cases were resolved in this way. Several defendants also chose to pay fines rather than face imprisonment.
In 2014, the Sierra Leone government began to implement its 2014-18 national action plan to combat corruption.
The ACC received 770 corruption cases, of which it assigned 56 to staff, completed investigations on 54, closed 35 without charges, and issued warnings in one.
The ACC secured six convictions as of September. The remaining cases were pending.
By September 2014, the ACC recovered approximately 525 million Leones ($115,500) from public officers and private businesspersons in fines, restitutions, and settlements in corruption-related cases.
Again, the ACC did not offer to settle cases out of court and suspects may request a settlement. Therefore many cases were resolved in this way. Several defendants also chose to pay fines rather than face imprisonment.
During the same year, the government began to implement its 2014-18 national action plan to combat corruption.
The effectiveness of this institution from now onwards would be determined by the standard of ‘political will’ surrounding ACC in the future.
This we hope, would instill motivation in ACC staff, improve command and operational tactic, quality of investigations prosecution and trials.
We are however disappointed that for all these activities, Sierra Leone’s public service has continued to be corrupt year after year. Grand corruption still remains a severe challenge to good governance in Sierra Leone, despite the existence of elements of good anti-corruption strategies.
In conclusion, we would like the ACC to know that the Chief Executive of CHRDI, Mr Abdul M. Fatoma is a man of unquestionable integrity and we can prove beyond all reasonable doubts that he is not and has never been a card holder for any political party in Sierra Leone.
We want to assure all Sierra Leoneans and foreign residents in Sierra Leone that CHRDI will continue to maintain its neutrality and credibility and will never be compromised by political interference. Our team would remain committed to the pursuance of a better life for all poor and vulnerable Sierra Leoneans.
We also want to assure The Anti- Corruption Commission that we will not relent in our Accountability Campaign and we are prepared to sustain this fight with the poor people and no amount of intimidation will deter us.
Account to the people now or you will continue to face more legitimate questions from us.
You can listen to the spokesman for the ACC here: