Amin Kef Sesay: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 18 March 2021:
Ibrahim Tawa Conteh, member of parliament representing Constituency 128, in the far West of Freetown, reacting to the recent findings of the ACC said yesterday that on the 22nd of February 2021, he received a signed copy of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) report into allegations of corruption in parliament, which, according to him was triggered by some media interviews he gave in October 2019.
“I should state that this report comes about sixteen months after my statement to the ACC,” he said, maintaining that the signed copy of the report he received is different in content from that which was published by the ACC.
Speaking about the issue of Constituency Development Fund (CDF), which the ACC reported that “MPs did not utilize the money for the strictly prescribed purpose….but they rather used the money for other developmental activities…as they deemed necessary”, he questioned under which financial law or regulation did those MPs unilaterally decide to divert funds budgeted for a specific purpose to some other purpose.
He said that as a law-abiding lawmaker, he presented receipts of use of his CDF funds for the intended purpose and stated that the ACC did not make any mention of that in their report.
Tawa said he also noted that on the issue of General Imprest and Parliamentary Oversight, the ACC reported, confirming his statement that Parliament received about 95% of its 2018 budgetary allocation. He said, however, ACC concluded that imprest for 2018 and 2019 “were expended and appropriate returns made” and that there was no specific disbursement of funds for parliamentary oversight, even though it was a budgeted activity by Parliament and 95% of the total budget sum was received.
He highlighted that in the Anti-Corruption Act 2008 (ACA 2008), deprivation of funds by a public body amounts to misappropriation of public funds (Section 36(2) of the ACA 2008) but yet the ACC did not find this prosecutable.
The Member of Parliament also said that on the issue of Procurement, the ACC reported that “processes and procedures were not fully followed” and that there was “a serious lack of proper procurement and accountability regime in the financing structure of Parliament”.
The ACC concluded that the said anomalies need to be “immediately and properly addressed” without any recourse to Section 48 (1) which makes wilful or negligent failure to comply with procurement procedures a corruption offence. In that regard, Tawa said he is convinced that in the report the ACC took on the role of investigator and tribunal.
“I believe that only the court has the jurisdiction to say if any action or omission amounts to misappropriation. The role of the ACC is to present the facts of the allegations to court and not to decide between the whistle-blower and the persons reported. I feel that the ACC’s prosecutorial discretion has been abused,” he said.
As a whistle-blower, he said the report demoralizes his resolve to help in the President’s promise to fight against corruption.
The MP made it known that he has neither received support nor any form of protection from the ACC as a whistle-blower. “Instead, I was treated as a suspect and subjected to rigorous investigations,” adding that at the end of the day, the Office of the Clerk of Parliament against whom his report was directed, has been described as a whistle-blower too.
He asked the question: How can the leadership of a serious institution lacking proper procurement and accountability be a whistle blower?
The MP concluded by thanking everyone for their support, prayers and good wishes, stating that the fight for a New Direction shall continue, maintaining that the outcome will not deter him but has rather energised him to strive and to fight on.
Ibrahim Tawa Conteh predicament in fighting corrupt practices in parliament shows that corruption is endemic in every fabric of our society. The Government and opposition in parliament have demonstrated that in the course of the ACC investigation and the recent perception survey. So, whether it is the opposition members or Government officials that are involved in corrupt practices, they’ll always fight back. Hence, the prophetic declaration by Mr President that “corruption will fight back” coming to fruition.
Hon Ibrahim Tawa Conteh is a brave Parliamentarian who has defied the odds to expose corruption within Parliament for which his treatment by the Institution’s leadership is awful. I do not expect serious reforms in Parliament as long as you have someone like Abbass Bundu as Speaker. The speaker treated the perception survey report with disdain rather than using it for instituting reforms.
The ACC in its selective and biased way of fighting corruption has left a bad taste in our mouths. It is now clear that we have a good number of Sierra Leoneans who don’t mean well for our country, whilst those who are well meaning will think twice before taking a stance like the Hon member of Parliament.
Enough respect and admiration to you sir honorable Tawa Conteh. Sierra Leone will be a better place if we have a good number of individuals with caliber as yours, in position of power. Keep up the good fight sir, never back down or allow anyone to deter you. As long as you stay in the righteous path, our omnipotent supreme being, our creator, will surely be on your side, along with the millions of suffering Sierra Leonean citizens you are fighting for.
Not long ago, Bio said we have to draw a line and wage a concerted effort to fight corruption across government departments in Sierra leone. When he launched his manifesto, he promised he will come down hard on those public officials that are engaged in corrupt activities, especially his Ministers and members of his cabinet. He encouraged his minister to uphold their oath of office, and serve in the best interest of the country. What we’ve seen so far has been an uphill struggle. A battle of hearts and minds by those same ministers accused of corruption. And the fight against corruption kicked in the long grass. We the ordinary citizens expect when the ACC made their allegations against an individual or politician, it is for that individual or politician to provide the evidence to refute those allegations. Period end of story.
Going public, hoping to persuade the court of public opinion, rather than working with the ACC by providing them a satisfactory reputable evidence, or better still going to a court of law to make your case, but choose the former is not only abhorrent, but out of kilter. What Hon MP Ibrahim Tawa Conteh is doing, is not only dangerous and damaging and to some extent undermining the work of the ACC, but is giving sucker to any future accused person, by way of giving them the oxygen of denial, that once again the ACC has got their evidence wrong. They start to say they’ve been victimised or picked on. And the silent victim is the vast majority of the population of Sierra Leone.
Your Boss, president Bio says he is fighting corruption. Hon. MP Conteh, the best service you can render to Sierra Leone and your constituency, is to roll up your sleeves and join the ACC in the trenches in their fight against this cancer of corruption in our country. By being transparent and accountable for the work you do. And that goes to all elected representatives.