January 9, 2017 By Ibrahim Tarawallie
The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has come down heavily on the Campaign for Human Rights and Development International (CHRDI) for alleging serious corruption within the country’s anti-graft agency.
In a press release, the ACC referred to a report published by CHRDI accusing the commission of engaging in shady activities as misleading, malicious, and unfounded.
CHRDI recently published a report which indicted the ACC of failure to publish audited accounts in the past ten years, as well as claimed that there was a strong public suspicion that the commission was in the habit of diverting recovered looted funds into private ownership.
According to CHRDI Chief Executive, Abdul M. Fatoma, between 2008 and 2014, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) charged 70 people to court and closed 205 cases and that it received and kept in view 58 and referred 10, but that it was unclear where and to whom it was referred.
He also claimed that some cases were not charged to court because they were kept in what the anti-graft calls ‘Keep Review System’, adding that ACC officials had told his organisation that the commission cautioned 40 corruption cases and secured 64 convictions within the period above and also recovered billions of Leones.
Fatoma further claimed that public confidence in the ACC has plummeted as not many Sierra Leoneans, in and out of the country, trust it to prosecute those implicated in corruption, adding that the recently launched campaign by the ACC called “Pay No Bribe” was considered by some members of the public as another playbook antic that would produce no results.
However, the ACC stated that they have no records of any CHRDI researcher speaking to any of their officials on the issues raised and that the facts and figures on the programmes and operations of the commission were stated their annual reports and National Annual Audit Reports.
“It seems obvious that either CHRDI did not read these reports, or chose to ignore them. CHRDI should understand that the judiciary has the sole mandate to determine cases inclusive of setting dates for trial,” the ACC release stated.
According to the ACC, CHRDI’s presumption that cases were stalled on appeal because the commission was ‘unwilling to urge the judiciary to slate dates’ was misguided and that any such steps taken by the ACC undermined the principles of separation of powers and the operation of the rule of law.
The anti-graft agency also stated that claims by the human rights organisation that the ACC lacks staff with the right competencies, expertise and skills, especially in areas of policing organised economic crimes, financial intelligence and forensic auditing completely lacked merit.
“Between 2014 and 2016, the country made the most gains in the fight against corruption as evidenced in local, international, and regional anti-corruption barometers. In the area of prosecutions, many have been convicted, including sitting ministers, magistrates, mayor, high profile public officials and business people. The ACC has had more than 102 convictions and had even secured a 100% rate in 2014. Consequently, Sierra Leone made 39 spaces upwards in the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index moving from a ranking of 158 in 2008 to 119 in 2014,” the release stated further.
The “Pay No Bribe Campaign”, according to the ACC, was the most scientific method designed to fight corruption as it represented one of the most effective ways of countering bribery.
On claims that recoveries were diverted for personal use, the anti-graft agency said a simple research would have shown CHRDI that the monies were publicly presented to the President on an annual basis by way of cheques, endorsed to the Consolidated Revenue Fund.
Recognising that “corruption has hindered economic development, reduced social services, and diverted investments in infrastructure, institutions, and social services into personal accounts”, the ACC called on the leadership of CHRDI to help in the fight against corruption by supporting its undertakings in the national campaign against graft, rather than undermine same to promote a desired agenda.