In an interactive meeting convened on 19th August 2021, the Public Education and Outreach Unit of the Anti-Corruption Commission’s office in the Northeast region called staff of the National Civil Registration Authority (NCRA) in Makeni to reject corruption by exhibiting acceptable practices in their daily operations.
Established by an Act of Parliament in 2016, the Authority takes records of important events such as births, deaths, adoptions, marriages, and divorces. Also, it issues National Identification Number – a unique alpha numeric character – to every Sierra Leonean within and outside the country.
According to ACC Public Education Officer, Abdul Karim Bangura, the meeting held at the office of the Authority, was an essential part of the Commission’s efforts to empower public bodies with information to uphold integrity uppermost in serving the public. The officer further remarked that the Commission also educates communities across the country on the ills of corruption in order to enlist their support in its campaign.
Giving an overview of the eroding effects of corruption, Bangura pinpointed that government’s efforts to generate revenue most likely prove ineffectual as mischievous and corrupt individuals line their pockets with public funds. He added that corruption scuttles good governance structures such as the rule of law and freedom of the Press. ‘Even more gruesome impact of corruption,’ he mentioned further,‘is civil resentment which could trigger unrest in a country.’
The Public Education Officer then emphasized that graft affects every Sierra Leonean irrespective of any and all social differences. He therefore made a clarion call to the NCRA staff, stating that it behooves them as public service actors to raise their capacity to reject all forms of corruption, and stressing that ensuring the full operation of internal anti-corruption structures like the Integrity Management Committee would make a huge difference. ‘You will find the ACC useful in reviewing your entire operations for efficient and effective performance,’ Bangura concluded.
Making his contribution during the engagement, ACC Public Education Officer, Aiah P. M. Sourie noted that the fight against corruption does not rest only with the anti-graft leader. He declared that the whole nation, especially functionaries in public bodies, needs to see corruption through the prism of patriotism and strongly resist it. In addition, he said: ‘We cannot continue to be victims of public officials who shirk their roles and standard practices to enrich themselves.’
He referred to the 2019 Anti-Corruption Amendment Act as a landmark in prosecuting graft in the country, a result of an attempt to make corruption a costly and dangerous business. Among other highlights of the Amendment, full amount of misappropriated funds will be recovered from a corrupt person in an ensuing settlement plus a mandatory ban from holding public office for at least three years. Also, either a minimum fine of Le 5,000,000 or a minimum imprisonment term of 5 years ‘shall’ be served on a count of corruption offence. Both fine and term may be served, according to the Public Education Officer
While stressing the judicious use of the resources of the Authority to avoid indictment, Sourie informed the NCRA staff that, on 11 August 2021, the ACC secured conviction against one Hawa Y. Kamara, an EDSA Revenue Reconciliation Officer and other persons in the High Court presided by Justice Simeon Allieu, after they had pleaded guilty to Misappropriation of Public Funds contrary to Section 36 (1) of the Anti-Corruption Act of 2008 as amended in 2019. The officer therefore implored his audience to learn a lesson from the conviction, and always resolutely stave off corruption and corrupt practices.
Responding to the anti-graft message, Mohamed A, Kamara, District Registration Coordinator of NCRA, said the engagement with the ACC would probably never have come at a better time. He described the meeting as educative and eye-opening, pledging that his colleagues and he would heed accountability and transparency in serving the public. ‘The ACC should be meeting us at regular intervals, so that the relationship between our two institutions becomes cemented.’