Sierra Leone Telegraph: 31 October 2019:
The parliament of Sierra Leone has today debated and passed a Bill put forward to MPs by the government, seeking their approval to amend the existing corruption laws to make them more effective in the fight against graft, misappropriation of public funds and other financial misdemeanours.
The proposed amendments were scrutinised yesterday by a joint-committee, including the Legislative and Transparency Committee, and was then sent back to the whole House for debate today.
And after intense debate today, MPs unanimously approved the changes to the 2008 Corruption Act, thus enacting what is now referred to as “The Anti-Corruption (Amendment) Act 2019” into law, with some amendments.
The main thrusts of the Anti-Corruption (Amendment) Act 2019 is that for the first time, it is now clear as to which categories of public officers are required to make annual declaration of their assets. It has also increased penalties for offences under the Act and other related matters.
Other key aspects of the new law is that it strengthens the protection of those who assist the Anti-Corruption Commission in their investigations and successful prosecution of those accused of corruption.
It provides the Commission with a range of options in seeking redress from those accused of corruption, who may want to settle out of court rather than face prosecution where there is an overwhelming evidence against them.
The new law also widens the scope of corruption to include: that the accused ‘offered’, ‘solicited’, ‘obtained’ or ‘received’ in addition to ‘gave’ and accepted’ an advantage; reduces the year-long requirement that people who cease to be public officers have to file a declaration in respect of their assets, and empowers the Commissioner to specify categories of public officers for the purpose of declaration by Statutory Instrument published in a Gazette.
The 2019 Anti-Corruption (Amendment) Act provides for administrative sanction of public officers who fail to submit their Asset Declaration Forms or knowingly record false, inaccurate or misleading information on the form; and to vest in the Commissioner, power to direct that contracts may not proceed, where for example it is deemed that such contracts have been awarded contrary to public procurement regulations and Anti-Corruption laws.
This is a statement published today by the Anti-Corruption Commission:
“The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) is pleased to announce that the House of Parliament of the Republic of Sierra Leone has on Thursday 31st October, 2019 passed the Anti-Corruption (Amendment) Act 2019, being an amendment to the Anti-corruption Act 2008.
“The Amendment Act provides for, among other things, increased penalties for offences under the Act; strengthens protection for witnesses and whistleblowers; provides the ACC with alternatives to prosecution; widens the scope of corruption to include that the accused ‘offered’, ‘solicited’, ‘obtained’ or ‘received’ in addition to ‘gave and accepted’ an advantage; reduces the year-long requirement that persons who cease to be public officers have to file a declaration in respect of their assets; provides for administrative sanctions for public officers who fail to submit their asset declaration forms or knowingly record false, inaccurate or misleading information in the forms; introduces trial of those accused of corruption in absentia; limits the scope of public officer to declare their assets and imposes sanctions for non-compliance; and vests in the ACC Commissioner power to direct that contracts with elements of corruption in their processing may not be proceeded with after agreement with the National Public Procurement Authority.
“Following the passage of the Bill, the Commissioner of the ACC, Francis Ben Kaifala Esq. had this to say: *“The People’s Anti-Corruption (Amendment) Bill, 2019 fully empowers the ACC to make corruption very expensive and more efficiently confront corruption at all levels; including preventing the signing of contracts that are NOT in the national interest.”*
“The Bill, which was first tabled in Parliament some seven months ago, was passed after going through the legislative stages and committees in Parliament, including a vote by Members of Parliament specifically on the “contracts clause”; and thereafter the entire bill, following a vibrant bi-partisan debate.
“The Bill now awaits assent by the President of the Republic of Sierra Leone, His Excellency, Brig. (Rtd.) Julius Maada Bio to become Law.”