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The Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) in its community mobilization and awareness raising campaigns on Saturday 19th May 2012 sensitized stakeholders and residents of the Sumaila Town Community at the community field grounds in Freetown. The meeting which brought together local and religious leaders; women and youth groups; and many community people was chaired by Mr. Amadu Fofanah, a community member, who in his opening remarks thanked the ACC for considering their community for such a sensitization. (Photo: Cross section of Sumaila Town residents)
Mr. Fofanah admonished participants to consider this as an opportunity, as it will empower them with the appropriate knowledge to foster development in their community and advised them to put aside politics when it came to issues of community development. He then welcomed the team of ACC officials as he recognized the Community Chief, Pa. Alimamy Abu Sesay and the female chief, Ya Alimamy Bangura.
Giving the background to the formation of the Commission and the reasons for such sensitization, Public Education Officer, Mr. David Kanekey Conteh said the ACC is a statutory body which was born out of the TRC’s recommendations to target issues of corruption and bad governance, which were presented as the two major causes of the civil conflict experienced by this country 15 years ago. Mr. Conteh further said the Commission was set up to lead the fight against graft, but people have soon realized that the Commission alone cannot wipe out corruption from this country without the resolved commitment of the people of Sierra Leone, adding that if the people are to develop the confidence to work with the Commission, the ACC should break the silence and demystify the Commission by going into those communities, educating them on the activities of the Commission and their role in the fight against corruption. Mr. Conteh said the booties of corruption are glaringly clear in our communities and also the gains from fighting corruption are very evident, as huge sums of money are recovered every day and sent back to the consolidated fund by the ACC.
Speaking on the corrupt practices, Assistant NACS Officer, Ms. Margaret Jones emphasized that community resources and funds placed in the hands of few decision makers are not meant for the few in leadership, but for the community people to whom they are to be accountable. Ms. Jones further said any fund that comes from either the government or a donor; for the community automatically becomes a public fund and if not used judiciously for the intended purpose becomes misappropriation of government or donor funds. She also spoke on other offences and that the fine for each of the offences is not less than thirty (30) million Leones or 3 years imprisonment or both, as in the 2008 Anti Corruption Act. She advised them to stop bribing public officials for services provided by the government and called on them to report any corrupt practice within their community.
Speaking on the preventive mechanism of the ACC, Monitoring and Compliance Officer, Mr. Horatio Barlay, gave an overview of the Systems and Processes Review Department. Mr. Barlay said the ACC does not sit by and wait for corrupt practices to take place before it intervenes, but rather embark on preventive measures. One of the preventive strides of the Commission is the holistic review of systems, processes and procedures of government Ministries, Departments and Agencies, making recommendations which are bound to be implemented, under what he referred to as compliance sanctions. Mr. Barley explained the functions of the three units of his department which are Systems and Processes Review, Monitoring and Compliance; and Policy and Ethics units, adding that the department also works with the private sector especially donors, to develop policies which will narrow the gap for potential corruption. He highlighted some of the MDAs that have been reviewed and those that are presently being monitored. He also mentioned the service charters and code of practice guide that have been instituted in various government institutions.
Communications Officer, Mr. John Tarawally, explained the ways of making report to the Commission, which goes through the report center that are responsible to receive complaints from the public. Mr. Tarawally spoke on how reports are received and how they are processed before sent to the Complaint Review Committee for perusal. He distinguished between practices that fall under the AC Act 2008 and those that do not. He added that those that fall under the AC Act 2008 are sent to the investigations Unit and those that do not, are referred to other government institutions for actions to be taken. The Communications Officer explained the various channels for making complaints and how to reach the Commission. He cautioned them on malicious complaints as it is an offence under the AC Act 2008. At the end, he implored them to help the Commission as they act as whistleblowers in their community by making reports to the ACC.
Followed by a vote of thanks, Ms. Francess Bangura, a women’s leader of the community appreciated the ACC for educating members of their community on what corrupt practices to look for in the community, but she strongly advised her colleagues not to send reports to the ACC out of malice, but in the interest of development, while highlighting health centre, police post and a community centre as pressing needs of the Sumaila town community.
Questions, comments and recommendations also formed part of the deliberations.
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