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.