Sierra Leone Telegraph: 6 April 2019:
Sierra Leone’s judiciary was rocked yesterday after news of the indictment of the country’s Registrar and Master of the High Court of Sierra Leone on various corruption charges, including the embezzlement of Le60,000,000 received in court fines.
According to the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), on 4th April, 2019, Stephen Yayah Mansaray – Master and Registrar of the High Court of Sierra Leone, residing at No. 11 Belair Park, Freetown; Adele Faya – Accounts Clerk of the Judiciary of Sierra Leone, residing at 118 Bai Bureh Road, Grassfield, Freetown; Isatu Ulaikatu Kiamp Kamara – Revenue Officer of the National Revenue Authority (NRA), residing at 5 Stone Seat Drive, Allen Town, Freetown; and Abubakarr Bangura – Revenue Officer at the National Revenue Authority (NRA), residing at 67 Freetown Road Lumley, Freetown, were each charged on two counts of conspiracy to commit a corruption offence contrary to Section 128(1), and misappropriation of public revenue, contrary to Section 36 (1) of the Anti-Corruption Act No.12 of 2008.
According to the particulars of offence filed at the High Court by the ACC, Stephen Yayah Mansaray, Adele Faya, Isatu Ulaikatu Kiamp Kamara, and Abubakarr Bangura, misappropriated the sum of Sixty Million Leones (Le 60,000,000.00) that was supposed to have been paid to the National Revenue Authority as fines paid by Mr. Emmanuel Ekundayo Constant Shears-Moses between the 12th and 20th March 2019, in respect of sentence he had received at the very High Court for corruption, of which Mr Mansaray is the Registrar and Master.
The four indicted accused are expected to make their first appearance at the High Court of Sierra Leone in Freetown on the 9th of April, 2019.
What is truly perplexing and nauseous about this case is that, the Registrar and Master of the High Court of Sierra Leone is the custodian of all matters referred to the High Court. He is therefore expected to set a bright example in maintaining the highest standards of propriety.
After the mass stealing of Ebola funds in 2014 and the subsequent shame that this brought to Sierra Leone, few would expect senior court officials to steal fines paid to the courts by those found guilty of corruption. Corruption fines – like Ebola funds, must be sacrosanct.
Funds raised by the government from fines and taxes are needed to keep the country’s hospitals and education system running.
But when public officials allow greed and lack of self-respect to get in the way of good governance, then custodial sentence must be the ultimate punishment in addition to paying back the stolen funds.
It seems that far too many senior public officials are still failing to heed the Anti-Corruption Commission’s message that ‘business as usual is over’ in Sierra Leone; and that anyone – irrespective of status, tribe and political persuasion – found guilty of corruption, will face the full force of the law.
But are the penalties tough enough?
Few weeks ago, Mr Shear-Moses (Photo) was found guilty of corruption by the High Court and was ordered to pay millions of Leones in fines. He turned up at the Registrar of the High Court – and paid his fines.
And what happened to the fines that he paid after being found guilty of corruption? Senior officials collecting the corruption fines stole the cash; and now they too are charged with corruption.
If these allegations are true, then the justice system in Sierra Leone is in big trouble and needs radical measures to fix it fast, if it is to maintain its credibility.
Corruption has become a culture – a normal and casual way of life in Sierra Leone, to a point where public officials are no longer worried about the consequences if caught.
They believe they can simply pay back what they stole and walk away with their heads held up high into another job – most likely in the public sector once more.
Fighting corruption is a battle the ACC must win. But it cannot win it by simply recouping stolen public funds. There must be a strong element of custodial punishment to serve as a deterrent.
Thousands of Sierra Leoneans die every year because of poverty and poor healthcare. With corruption, more will continue to die needlessly.