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One of the Anti-Corruption Commission’s (ACC) core values is coalition building and partnership. In the drive to accomplish this, the Commission on Wednesday 5th October 2011 took its anti corruption campaign to the office of the Ombudsman in Kenema.
Stating the purpose of the meeting the District Coordinator for the ACC, Mohamed Sylvanus Blake said that they were in the office of the Ombudsman as part of the institutional approach to public education and to ensure that staff of the office of the Ombudsman are properly educated on issues of Corruption and the operations of the Commission so that they are armed enough to fight corruption. He referred to the ACC as the lead agency in the fight against corruption and hence seeks to recruit the public and public officers into the anti-corruption force. He added that he was arming them with the necessary information on the operations of the ACC, what constitutes corruption, how to report corruption to the ACC. He stated that corruption is the principal cause of underdevelopment in the country. Concluding, he gave the background to the establishment of the Commission and called on staff of the Office of the Ombudsman to pay heed to the caution given by the ACC.
Earlier in his opening statement, the Resident Investigator, Office of the Ombudsman East, Mr. Evans Bains-Johnson who chaired the meeting thanked the ACC team for the visit. He said that the office of the Ombudsman, like that of the ACC, was set up by an act of parliament in 1997 to address administrative injustice. Mr. Johnson said that their main task is to receive, investigate and resolve complaints by members of the public. He informed the ACC that since the Regional office was established in July 2010 they have received several complaints bothering on none payment of salaries, pensions, gratuities and harassments among others. He mentioned that some of the complaints do not fall within their mandate and are therefore referred to the relevant MDAs like the ACC, Family Support Unit of the Sierra Leone Police and the Ministry of Labour. He noted that while the Ombudsman investigates complaints with a view to resolving the conflict the ACC investigates with a view to prosecuting offenders. He welcomed the ACC to his office and hoped the meeting would be fruitful.
Giving a run down of the operations of the Commission, The Public Education Officer of the ACC, David Kanekey Conteh said that the Commission employs a three pronged approach in addressing corruption; Education, Prevention and Prosecution. He mentioned that the Commission prioritizes education and prevention because they are far less expensive and save a lot wastage, damage and loss of resources.
Mr. Conteh went on to say that the Commission prefers converts to convicts. He concluded by saying that prosecution becomes necessary for those public officers and persons who fail to heed the warnings provided through education and prevention. He implored all to stay away from corruption as its consequences are far reaching.
Throwing light on the corrupt practices in the AC Act 2008, Legal Officer and Senior Investigations Officer of the ACC Eastern Region Patrick Martin George referred to the Office of the Ombudsman as one of the Pillars of Integrity that is paramount in promoting good governance in the nation. He said that conviction of the former Ombudsman of corruption charges makes it all the more necessary for the commission to engage all MDAs especially our alliance partners so that they do not fall into the Anti-Corruption net.
Speaking on the corruption offence, Mr. George explained that most public officers and the public concentrate on offences like misappropriation of public or donor funds forgetting that misappropriation of public or donor property is also an offence. He said it was the responsibility of every citizen especially public officers to account for public/donor property under their control.
He warned against public officers soliciting and accepting advantage and gifts in the exercise of their official duties and emphasized that the penalty for any offence is a fine not less that Thirty Million Leones or three years in prison or both fine and imprisonment. He said that the ACC move is meant to urge staff to watch before leaping.
The ACC hot lines were read out.
In his closing statement, Mr. Evans Bains-Johnson appreciated the ACC for the sensitization. He said that some of the corrupt practices mentioned could easily be overlooked but with the education and sensitization they have had, they have now been put on their guard. He added that people’s expectations of the Commission are very high simply because they see the ACC as the last hope of rescue for this nation and that this hope should not be dashed. He pledged his office’s undivided support to the ACC.
Distribution of ACC educational materials and questions and answer session formed part of the meeting.
Peter Baio Kamara, ACC Public Education Officer –Kenema
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