The Regional Manager of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) in the North-West Region, Al-Hassan Sesay has told public officers at the Gbalamuya Customs post at the Sierra Leone/ Guinea border that government revenue must be protected and accounted for as stated by law.
He made this statement during a customized meeting with the management and staff of the National Revenue Authority, Immigration, Police personnel and other service delivery institutions attached at the Gbalamuya border crossing point.
The engagement according to the Senior Public Education Officer Junisa Sankoh was convened to engage staff on various issues on corruption and to also warn all public officers to desist from such practices.
Addressing public officers, the Regional Manager said it is the responsibility of all public officers to ensure that every penny received on behalf of government to be protected. The Gbalamuya border customs post is a major revenue basket for government, noting that as a major gateway to Sierra Leone, most times negative perceptions about the country are fuelled by the negative attitude of public officers at the Post. “There should be sound financial operations and a sound system of accountability relating to income generated,” he maintained.
The Regional Head used the occasion to warn staff deployed at the custom post to be mindful of the anti-corruption laws and their interaction with the public when performing their duties.
Speaking on the significance of maintaining integrity and accountability, he informed them that with the 2019 amendment Act of the ACC, the Commission has been empowered to cancel all contract deemed not to be in the interest of the public or a section thereof, strengthened and narrowed the asset declaration regime, trial in absentia, restitution, examination malpractice as a punishable offence and jail terms and fines increased to five years and fifty million Leone respectively. He therefore encouraged all staff of the respective institutions present to maintain best practices in the discharge of their functions.
The Senior Investigation Officer, Bernard Dixon said corruption has an adverse effect on revenue mobilization and the level of impunity with which public officers fritter funds and the resultant retrogression on the country’s socio-economic life is enormous. SIO Dixon pointed out that ACC operations are informed by the type of reports and intelligence received from the public including travellers. He went on to note that these intelligence most times indicate that there is a seeming organized syndicate and support network operating to pilfer much need funds meant to address social services. He called on public officers to support the ACC and make Sierra Leone a better place for all.
Explaining key corruption related offences to staff deployed at the Custom post, Mr Dixon made a comprehensible presentation of offences in the Anti-Corruption Act relating to offering, soliciting and accepting advantage, soliciting an advantage for a public officer, misappropriation of public funds and property, abuse of office and position, conspiracy to commit a corruption offence among other things.
In his welcome remarks, Manager of the National Revenue Authority Peter Dawah welcomed the ACC team and thanked them for taking such a laudable initiative to engage and sensitize them on various matters of corruption. He noted that the sensitization meeting will help and guide their operations and will enhance collaboration. He registered his commitment to continue to enhance best practices and to conform to operational guidelines and procedures.
Public Education Officer, Mohamed Thullah who spoke on ethics in the workplace stated that ethics as a key component of integrity regulates the conduct, attitude and behavior of public officers to be professional in the line of duty. He described ethics as incredibly important and crucial to reducing costly errors, avoiding illegal activity and keeping the institutions core values.
He called on senior management of the public bodies attached at the Gbalamuya Custom post to put in place internal controls and structural measures that will address the culture of extortion, negative attitude to work, and other illicit payments that have the propensity to negate the image of the custom post. Whilst reminding them of the presence of the elite scorpion squad in the region, he noted that the ACC was also very much concerned about absenteeism, attendance, double dipping and other malfeasance.
Presentation of IEC materials and question and answer session formed part of the engagement.