Rothongbai is one of the communities that benefited from the surface rent the Magbass Sugarcane plantation paid to the environs in meeting to its corporate social responsibility.
Nine villages in that community established a committee which had representation from all the villages. The committee agreed that, whenever the surface rent is paid, the money will be used to build a school in one of the villages and it was agreed to be rotational until schools are built with proceeds of the surface rent in all the nine villages.
Seven villages had already benefited from what they agreed upon on how to use the surface rent. It was Rothongbai’s turn to benefit when few stakeholders tried to skew the initial agreement. From the Commission’s findings, those stakeholders informed the Rothongbai community that the policy has changed. It was as a result of such disagreement that the Serry Family and some well meaning community members of Rothongbai reported the matter to the ACC.
Upon conclusion of investigations on the said matter, the Commission found out that there is an overwhelming threshold for the matter to be prosecuted. If the matter had been prosecuted and eventually won in court, refunds or proceeds from the case would not have been enough to build the school. If that had happened, the Rothongbai community would not have had the opportunity to have a better school. Therefore, the Anti-Corruption Commission made sure that a cheque of the surface rent was paid to the Commission which was then handed over to the contractor for the construction of the school. The contractor was reporting directly to the Commission until the school was completed and he handed over the keys to the Commission.
The old school of mud bricks is now a death trap for the pupils and teachers. In order to save lives, the Commission has wasted no time but to hand over the school to the community before the rains get worse. The handing over took place on Wednesday, 30th May 2018.
The Director of Intelligence and Investigations, Mrs. Evelyn Kuyateh, led the ACC team to hand over the school in Rothongbai. In her statement, she commended the well meaning community members who stood firm and cooperated with the Commission for the school to be built. She singled out late Pa Mohammed Serry who played a great role in seeing that the money was not embezzled and that the school was built as agreed by all stakeholders involved on how to use the surface rent.
“My mandate is to investigate and assist with prosecutions. But Pa Mohammed Serry’s concern was to have a decent school for his community. That’s why the Commission did not go to court but to make sure that the school is built,” Mrs. Kuyateh stated.
She further noted that had the Commission went ahead to prosecute, the money would have been used as exhibit in court and maybe at the end of the case, Rothongbai would not have had enough money left of the surface rent to build the school. She encouraged the community members to always have confidence in the Commission and report incidences of corruption to the Commission.
Abdul Serry, one of the indigenes of Rothongbai, who never wanted to be anonymous, was among the community members that reported the matter to the ACC. In his statement, he noted that, after fruitless endeavours to make sure that their village benefits from the Magbass surface rent, they then decided to report the matter to the Anti-Corruption Commission as their last resort. He further registered his trust and confidence in the Anti-corruption Commission.
“After God, it is the Anti-Corruption Commission that has made it possible for us to have this school today. On that note, we will always be grateful to the Commission,” Abdul stated.
The Deputy Director of Education, Tonkolili District, Sheik Abdulai Yussuf Kamara, was also very happy and grateful to the Commission. He said at first he thought the Commission was all about investigations and prosecution and that he has learnt a lot from this event. He also commended the stakeholders who braved it to report to the Commission and prevented corruption from taking place. He further encouraged the Rothongbai community to make good use of the school.
The ACC Regional Manager North, Abu Bakarr Kamara, chaired the event. In his opening statement, he noted that the school structure is just like any other building and encouraged parents to send their children to school.
“This structure could be a hospital; it could be a store or any other thing. But it is a school because there are pupils and teachers in it. I therefore encourage you all to continue making this school a school by enrolling your children,” he addressed the community.
At the end of the programme, Mrs. Kuyateh handed over the keys to the Tonkolili District’s Deputy Director of Education who in turn passed on the keys to the councilor and then to the Community and the Head Master of the school. Among other notably stakeholders present were the community’s religious leaders, a representative of the Regent Chief and the Councilor. They spoke well and expressed gratitude to the ACC. Parents breathed sigh of relief that their children are now in a safe building and the pupils were as well excited to have a new school.