Sierra Leone Telegraph: 30 October 2019:
Parliament of Sierra Leone yesterday debated a Bill put forward by the Anti-Corruption Commission to amend existing corruption laws, in a bid to strengthen the hands of the commission in tackling what many believe is the most single contributor to widespread poverty in Sierra Leone.
The Bill – known as “The Anti-Corruption (Amendment) Act 2019”, was discussed by MPs and attracted sufficient cross-party support, has now been sent to the Legislative and Transparency Committees for further scrutiny before it can become law.
According to the ACC, the Anti-Corruption (Amendment) Act 2019 is seeking to amend the Anti-Corruption Act of 2008. For the first time, when it comes into law, it will name the categories of public officials who must declare their assets annually in fulfilment of Subsection (1) of Section 199 of the Act. It will also increase penalties for offences under the Act and for other related matters.
Presenting the Bill to MPs, the Deputy Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Umaru Napoleon Koroma (Photo), spoke about the importance of the Bill, which he said is aimed at curbing corruption.
The Minister informed MPs that the new law will increase penalties for offences under the Act; strengthen protection of those who assist the Commission; provide the Commission with alternatives to prosecution; widen the scope of corruption including the accused ‘offered’, ‘solicited’, ‘obtained’ or ‘received’ in addition to ‘gave’ and accepted’ an advantage; reduce the year-long requirement that people who cease to be public officers have to file a declaration in respect of their assets, and empower the Commissioner to specify categories of public officers for the purpose of declaration by Statutory Instrument published in a Gazette.
He also said that the new law will impose administrative sanctions on public officers who fail to submit their Assets Declaration Forms, or knowingly record false, inaccurate or misleading information on the form; and vest in the Commissioner, new power to direct that public contracts may not be proceeded with if judged to be improper.
He praised MPs for agreeing that corruption in Sierra Leone must be treated with all the seriousness it deserves, and that it is therefore timely to amend the corruption laws.
In response, Paramount Chief (PC) Sahr Yongai K. M’briwa MP, representing Kono District, supported the amendment. The PC also urged colleague MPs to support and promote the Bill in order to control corruption in the country, adding that ‘the cost of corruption is war”.
Deputy Leader of Government Business – Mathew S. Nyuma MP, observed that corruption can only be fought and won when there are strong laws.
“Let us have strong laws, not strong men,” he said. He commended what he described as the selfless strides of the ACC to promote transparency and accountability; noting that the ACC is trying to address a chronic problem.
He said that corruption is a “cancer” in the governance system which must be treated if Sierra Leone is to develop.
Ibrahim Tawa Conteh MP, urged parliament to take the lead in curbing corruption within parliament and beyond, underscoring that the system is paralyzed. “If we fight corruption sincerely, it will not fight back,” he remarked.
But he added that the fight against corruption should be impartial and that parliament should not be seen as one that accepts every Bill and Agreement, without making reservation.
The Presiding Speaker – Sengepoh Solomon Thomas said in reply to Ibrahim Tawa Conteh MP, that he is passionate to see that MPs are treated fairly, adding that they will ensure that some laws which are often overlooked will be implemented. “If we want MDAs to treat us seriously, we should treat ourselves seriously,” he told MPs.
Hassan Sesay MP, the Opposition Whip called for the harmonization of public sector salaries to ensure that disparities in salary levels are minimized in order to avoid corruption. He said that every agreement brought to parliament for approval must be strictly adhered to by government.
Acting Leader of Opposition – Ibrahim Ben Kargbo MP, assured parliament of his APC party’s continuing support in the fight against corruption, whilst urging for the Amendment Bill to be committed to the Legislative Committee for proper and further scrutiny.
Concluding the debate, the Leader of Government Business – Sidie M. Tunis MP, said that for the first time Sierra Leone is being recognized as a “responsible state” that is championing the fight against corruption.
He told MPs that the fight against corruption must never be discriminatory, adding that it is a clean fight which the President himself and other institutions have pledged to fight and win.
“We know corruption will fight back, but as a government we will ensure we endure the fight to stop it,” he urged.
Tunis said that the Bill should be amended to make it painful for those who are involved in corrupt practices, and that the Bill will now be committed to the Legislative and Transparency Committees for further scrutiny.
The only solution to our nation’s dilemma is to change our attitude. And politicians must have Love for their citizens.
OMG how do we fight against corruption With such comments?
Indeed, assets declarations can help to drastically reduce corruption,by exposing the unexplained,accumulated wealth of former,and current government officials, but it will not solve the problem of theft completely. Absolutely not! Ever seen a thief that got caught while descending through a roof at night? Well, next time he will dig himself a tunnel,and crawl quietly through it in broad daylight.(lol)
Gentlemen,the cunning ways of thieves are unfathomable, remarkable,and quite mysterious.(lol) New laws and amendments to existing ones,for the purposes of curbing corruption have their negative aspects and downsides. For starters,they could become a serious threat to an individuals right to privacy,liberty,and security when vital information,and records inadvertently fall into the wrong hands; Yep, someone angry, envious,or mentally ill could decide to administer their own kind of justice.
Again,we must remember that there are many Experts,and highly skilled individuals who through their professions,and hard work,have become extremely rich. And these people, could decide that the interest of their families comes first,striking down any attention geared towards what they already own, adamantly refusing to serve or hold any public office. And we shouldn’t forget the role that calculated tribalism, revenge,and witch hunts can play, when the law becomes a loaded gun or giant sword in the hands of a government with a totalitarian mindset holding the reins of power.
The legislative Committee has a daunting task in their hands: they must scrutinize this amendment bill thoroughly, ensure that adequate measures of restraint, transparency and accountability are anchored, braced and secured within this bill, for the purposes of keeping the law well balanced, effective and grounded. Above all, there must be emphasis on the protection and safeguarding of the rights of individuals that may stand accused of corruption, theft or wrong doing….Rising Sun Will Rise Again.
Mr Thomas – this is the third time,I have tried to comment on topics related to the ACC but all to no avail. None of those inoffensive comments,were ever published. (lol) What’s going on Mr Editor? (lol)My phone tells me,my comment was received,yet for reasons best known to you it is being withheld.
Seems to me something’s just ain’t right .Something fishy? Perhaps,but i am not quite sure!(lol) Protecting them from harsh criticisms,will be doing our nation a disservice – after all they are not perfect – they are flesh,and blood with all the inherent frailties,and weaknesses that come with human dispositions….Rising Sun Will Rise Again.
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Only the masses suffer – we the people of Sierra Leone deserve not this from our politicians that we sent to governed us. Weak laws, weak institutions and weak people with NO VALUES AND PRIDGE. We do not need strong Leaders but tough laws that stands for these values – Unity, Peace, Freedom and Justice. Those legislative, executive and judiciary criminals will NOT fail to hide themselves or indulge in corruption. They will continue to invade taxpayers’ money, leaving millions in poverty. I trust no SIERRA LEONE POLITICIAN.