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ACC prosecutes just 1.5% of all reported acts of corruption

February 25, 2021

By Jeneba A. Conteh

ACC commissioner Kaifala elected to the African Union Advisory Board on  corruption – SIERRA LEONE TELEGRAPH
Francis Ben Kaifala, Commissioner of the ACC

Just 1.5 out of every 100 reported cases of corruption ended up being prosecuted in court, according to recent data released by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) of Sierra Leone. The ACC received a total of 775 reports of alleged acts of corruption in 2020, representing an increase of 22% over 2019.

But just 12 of the 775 cases were prosecuted in court, and another 12 cases were settled out of court. This means that the majority of those reported for alleged acts of corruption were either cleared of charges, not investigated, or were maliciously reported and, as such, their cases were dropped.

The overwhelming majority, 86% of the reported corruption cases, were related to alleged misappropriation of donor/public funds.

About half of corruption reports were not investigated

ACC’s annual report shows that 49%, representing almost half of the cases of corruption reported in 2020, were not investigated by the ACC either because of lack evidence or lack of jurisdiction.

The ACC launched investigations into 393 of the 775 cases, representing 51% of the reported acts of corruption, and concluded investigations in just 97 cases by the end of the year, representing 25% of the total cases under investigation.

But as the investigations advanced in the 97 cases, the ACC further dropped 47 of those cases either because it lacked sufficient evidence, or because prosecution would not have been in the public interest. This means that only 50 cases, representing just 6.45% of the total reported cases made it passed the investigative level at the ACC.

We asked the ACC what it meant when it stated that “prosecution would not have been in the public interest.” The ACC responded that, if the Commission had relied on prosecution alone to fight corruption, such huge money would not have been generated by the ACC.

Of the 50 cases fully investigated by the ACC, 26 were referred to the Ministries, Departments and Agencies, also known as MDAs, because they required institutional policy actions. This left just 24 cases of alleged corruption to be sent to prosecution. There is no additional information on these cases and their outcome.

Finally, the Prosecution filed legal actions against 12 of the alleged cases of corruption occurring in 2020, while the remaining 12 cases were settled out of court. This means that only 1.5% of all reported cases of corruption were prosecuted, and 1.5% of those cases were settled out of court.

Reported cases of corruption went up by 22%, but recoveries went down by 65%

The ACC recovered just 7 billion Leones in “out of court settlements” from alleged misappropriation of public funds in 2020. By comparison, in 2019 the ACC recovered almost 20 billion Leones in “out of court settlements” from similar alleged corruption acts and in 2018 it recovered 19.7 billion Leones, according to the ACC’s 2019 annual report. This means that in 2020 the ACC registered a drop of 65% in out of court settlement funds.

In 2020 the ACC recovered significantly less money from corrupted activities compared to 2018 and 2019. Data Source: ACC. Graphic by: Jeneba A. Conteh.

The ACC stated that 2020 saw a grave drop of money been refunded by those who misappropriated public funds because the court proceedings were placed on hold for about three months during the height of the coronavirus pandemic and special restrictions.

In March 2020, President Bio declared a 12-month public health emergency to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

We asked the ACC to detail how much of the 7 billion Leones in recovered money came from out of court settlements. The ACC claimed that it has no comprehensive statistics to substantiate the actual amount but promised to do so in subsequent time.

The ACC and its Commissioner, Ben Kaifala, have received praise from local and international organizations on its determination and success in fighting corruption.

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