January 26, 2016 By Mohamed Massaquoi
There has been public debate of recent regarding the rights and responsibilities of the current acting head of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) on the grounds that he is not coming from a legal background.
Section 5 sub-Section 3 of the Anti-Corruption Act of 2008 (as amended) provides that in the absence of the Commissioner, the Deputy Commissioner shall have power to perform all the functions of the Commissioner. But the 1965 Criminal Procedure Act provides that only lawyers should charge criminal matters to court.
It could be recalled that President Ernest Bai Koroma in 2014 appointed Mr. Shollay Davies as Deputy Commissioner of the ACC. Prior to his appointment, Davies was Director of Public Education and External Outreach at the commission.
Renowned Freetown lawyer, Emmanuel Saffa Abdulai, said the Criminal Procedure Act does not in any way come to play especially when there was a constitutional amendment in 2008 that gave powers to the commissioner to charge corruption matters to court.
“As long as the commissioner has the right to charge matters to court, so also his deputy because it is clear in the Act that the deputy commissioner performs full functions of the commissioner [in the latter’s absence],” explained Mr. Abdulai. “All of these are coming up now because some people want the president to swiftly appoint a substantive commissioner.”
According to his academic credentials, the Acting Commissioner Davies has no legal background. He was awarded a Higher Teachers’ Certificate (HTC) from the then Milton Margai Teachers College (MMTC), a Bachelor of Science (BSc.) degree from Njala University College, and a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from the Institute of Public Administration and Management (IPAM). He also has undergone several professional trainings, including but not limited to, Community Mobilization, Anti-Corruption and Fiduciary Management, within and outside Sierra Leone.
The AC Act of 2008 as amended makes provision for the existence of the office of the commissioner and his deputy. Among many other things the Act clearly states that in the absence of the commissioner, his deputy should take up responsibility of the commission.
However, a source within the ACC told Concord Times that although “the acting commissioner does not have the legal right to charge any matter dealing with corruption to court”, yet he could work directly with the Office of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice for possible indictments.
“We are aware that some individuals have raised concerns regarding the current status of the commission since the former commissioner was appointed as Justice Minister by President Koroma. Based on relevant provisions in the Criminal Procedure Act of 1965, only lawyers should charge criminal matters to court, but in the past the ACC has got a substantive commissioner that did not have any legal background.
“Before now, we used to have Commissioner Val Collier, who was not a lawyer. I think what this commission needs now is somebody with the required managerial ability, competence and institutional ability to work with a team,” the source said.