The Public Education Unit of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) Office in Kono has engaged staff of the National Emergency Medical Services (NEMS) on the proper and effective use and management of ambulances in the District.
The meeting which took place at the District Health Medical Team Hall in Koidu city, is part of the Commission’s preventive approach to identify and address corruption risk areas in the management and use of public funds and/or properties.
Addressing staff members, Madam Hawanatu Omotayo Kamara, Regional Manager of the ACC, Kono Office, stressed the importance of public education and prevention in the fight against corruption. She said, the Commission recognizes the need for all citizens to be adequately informed about issues of corruption and the work of the Commission.
Mrs. Kamara reminded NEMS staff that the ambulances in their possessions are not owned by any individual or group of individuals but the State. ‘NEMS staff should, out of due diligence, consider themselves as custodians of public resources and should therefore utilize such in the interest of the community members for whom they are provided and managed she furthered. Manager expressed serious concerns over the many complaints by the public bordering on extortion and reckless driving by some drivers of these ambulances.
Investigation Officer ACC Kono, Sahid Sowa, outlined some corruption offences as contained in the Anti-Corruption Act of 2008 as amended in 2019. Dilating on Sections 36 and 37 of the Act, he said, misappropriation of public funds or property is a serious offence. Mr. Sowa stated that a person guilty of the offences referred to ‘shall on conviction be liable to a fine not less than fifty million leones (Le.50,000,000.000) or face imprisonment for a term not less than five years, adding that both penalties could be handed down on a convict.
Randolph Katta, Field Operations Manager of NEMS thanked the Commission for such a preventive approach, stressing that ‘prevention is better than cure’. He explained that the project was initially funded by the World Bank but the government of Sierra Leone has taken ownership of the project. He also stated that there are challenges with fuel as it allocations are not enough especially for some chiefdoms considering the distance and the road network. He further mentioned that most of the ambulances have been damaged through reckless driving but disciplinary actions have been taken against staff found wanting.
Head of NEMS in Kono, Joseph Ansumana also said that, there are other institutions in the District that have ambulance services and as such, some allegations from the public cannot be related to NEMS. He also said that the services they offer are free of charge. He also pledged his institution’s support to the fight against corruption in the district
Earlier, the District Monitor ACC, Patrick Hinga George, implored staff of NEMS to make informed decision to resist the slightest temptation to commit a corrupt act, first personally, and then, collectively as Sierra Leoneans,as they deliver services to the public.