Novermber 1, 2019
By Jariatu S. Bangura
After months of heated debate and cross references among lawmakers in Sierra Leone Parliament, Anti-Corruption Amendment Bill 2019 yesterday got parliamentary approval after a tight vote among the legislators that were present.
The bill faced series of setbacks since it was first taken to parliament in April 2019. On two occasions, lawmakers have to return it to the legislative committee, citing among other issues that the Bill would give more powers to the commissioner than the commission.
The amendment Bill sought to modify the Anti-Corruption Act of 2008, to specify categories of public officers to whom the declaration requirement under subsection (1) of Section 199 applies, and to increase penalties for offences under the Act and for other related matters.
Although there were some amendments done and insertions on the new sections and subsections, people charged with an offence under the Act, but fail to present themselves before the court, could be tried in absentia on the basis that a written letter is sent to the court by the accused.
However, there was some heated argument on the provisions of Section 126A which states that “where the Commissioner has reasons to believe that a contract, to which a public body is a party, is not in national interest, the Commissioner may in concurrence with the Chief Executive Officer of National Public Procurement Authority issues a directive in writing to the public body, directing not to sign the contract.”
The above provision aroused serious debate among lawmakers from both the ruling and opposition.
They argued that one party might hold a grudge against a potential bidder, and would subsequently provide wrong information about him or her to the ACC out of malice in order for the bidder not be awarded the contract.
The Deputy Speaker, who presided over the debate, put forward the aforementioned provisions to be inserted in the new ACC Act, and opposition members were forced to accept the provisions after an open ballot.