In his opening remarks, the Anti-Corruption Commissioner, Ade Macaulay, noted that even though his Commission is leading the fight against corruption in the Country, it is not the only player in such an endeavour thus acknowledging the need for other players to support the fight against corruption. He then drew attention to Section 7, Sub-section 1, Paragraph (a) of Act # 12 of 2008 (the Anti-Corruption Act) with a focus on the mandate of the Anti-Corruption Commission with a view to taking ‘all steps as may be necessary for the prevention, eradication or suppression of corruption and corrupt practices’. He further observed that his Commission is employing a two prong approach in the fight against corruption to include the proactive and the reactive approaches with the capacity building meeting as an example of a proactive approach. He also hastened to indicate that the Commission has embarked on several public education activities whilst also partnering with many institutions across the Country.
The Commissioner further intimated the meeting that his Commission is striving to in still integrity in the work place through the Integrity Management Committees (IMCs), Integrity Pledges and integrity pacts. He then argued that the successful fight against corruption is not based on the number of people you arrest and prosecute as the objective is not to arrest and lock up people, but rather to eradicate the opportunities for corruption. In his estimation such eradication could be made possible through systems and processes.
He also mentioned that with the ‘No Bribe’ campaign as an example, his Commission has been working with the Sierra Leone Police (SLP) and with that arrangement, twenty three (23) checkpoints have been removed, thus reducing the opportunity for corruption. He also emphasized the importance of the capacity building meeting that attracted attendees from Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), the Sierra Leone Police (SLP), the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF) in addition to Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) with a view to helping them internalize issues pertaining to the fight against corruption.
The major high points of the meeting were presentations done by the ACC Commissioner and the Deputy Director of Public Education and Outreach Department with a focus on the following topics: ‘ACC Legal Instruments and Court Procedures’ and ‘the Role of Partners in the Fight Against Corruption’, respectively.
The ACC Commissioner in his presentation affirmed that Sierra Leone has one of the most robust anti-corruption laws in the Continent and the strongest in the sub-region with the notion that to work with the ACC is not a choice, but a matter of must as prescribed in Section 10 of the Anti-Corruption Law in addition to the fact both individuals and institutions come under the same obligations as indicated in Sections 77 and 78, respectively. That notwithstanding, the Commissioner observed that the fight against corruption cannot be won by coercing people, but rather through effective partnership using a collaborative approach.
In continuation, key provisions of the Anti-Corruption Act of 2008 were presented and discussed to the effect that the ACC has been fully empowered to prosecute varying forms of corruption to include‘ corrupt acquisition of wealth’ (Section 26), ‘possession of unexplained wealth’ (Section 27), ‘offering, soliciting or accepting advantage’ (Section 28), ‘using influence for contract’ (Section 29), ‘misappropriation of public funds’ (Section 36), ‘impeding investment’ (Section 38), ‘corrupt transaction with agent’ (Section 39), ‘abuse of office’ (Section 42) and ‘conflict of interest’ (Section 45) among others. In attempting to allay the fears of those that will supply the Commission with vital information for its operations to be successful, the ACC Commissioner mentioned the important role of Section 81 of the ACC Act dealing with the ‘protection of informers’. He then made it abundantly clear that there are consequences for corrupt practices with very clear reference made to Section 130 of the ACC Act dealing with ‘general penalty’.
In his presentation to the meeting, the Deputy Director of Public Education and Outreach Department of the ACC, Patrick Sandy, noted that ACC is more than willing to collaborate with other people and institutions in the fight against corruption in the Country. He then identified various means whereby partners could help with the work of the ACC in the areas of sharing information, meeting capacity building needs, taking prompt action on matters referred to them, cooperate and collaborate with the Commission on public education and customized activities, cooperate with ACC in difficult times of public misunderstanding and integrate anti-corruption programmes into their strategic and action plans.
The capacity building meeting which was chaired by the ACC Director of Public Education and Outreach Department, Koloneh Sankoh, took the form of an interactive session that saw the ACC Commissioner responding to questions and comments fielded by attendees from different walks of life with the latter appreciating the frank manner in which the responses were provided. By the close of the meeting it was clear to all that the same meeting should be replicated to a larger audience across the length and breadth of the Country for the fight against corruption to be owned nationally.