By: Public Education Unit ACC, Kenema Office
As complaints against local court officers increase to alarming levels, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) Regional Office East, on 10th May 2021, engaged officers at Local Court Numbers 1 & 2 to sensitize and encourage them to desist from all forms of corruption within the local courts, particularly in the administration of justice. The engagement took place at the Local Court Number 1 in Segbwema Town.
Dilating on the many complaints made against local court officers, ACC’s Senior Public Education Officer, Sulaiman B. Sowa, said they range from soliciting items such as goats, palm oil, to excessive fees and fines imposed on litigants before and after adjudication of matters in the court. Mr. Sowa. who spoke in a very strong but constructive tone informed local court officers that the legal instrument for local courts was the Local Court Act of 2011 which details their establishment, powers, jurisdiction, appointment of key officers, offenses and fines.
He furthered that those who use any law other than the local court Act of 2011 were not serving the purpose of justice and committing offenses in the Anti-Corruption Act of 2008 as amended in 2019. Mr Sowa informed local court officials that the Commission was in receipt of complaints against local court officers who blatantly solicit huge sums of money to do things that are not enshrined in the local court Act of 2011 and says such action was concerning as it would breed corruption and hostility in Local communities.
Senior Investigations Officer (SIO), Mohamed Jah, outlined key offenses in the Ac Act of 2008 as amended in 2019. He told local court officers that all of them were public officers and therefore liable individually to their actions and conducts in the administration of local justice. SIO Jah detailed the modes of commission of key corruption offences, the investigation and prosecution processes with fines and penalties when found guilty. He specifically informed local court officers that the amendment of the 2008 Anti-Corruption Act is to make corruption a high risk and very expensive enterprise by increasing fines from 30 to 50 Million Leones minimum, and a jail term from 3 to 5 years minimum or both fine and jail term.
Chiefdom Administrative Clerk, A.O Coomber said, the engagement was necessary as it has provided education for local court officials on the dos and don’ts in local justice administration and challenged them to abstain from corrupt practices that are often associated with local courts. He made bold to say that there are merits in the allegations made, but called for more engagements and trainings for local court officials as they would help in the prevention of corruption in the local court administration. Mr. Coomber also informed the ACC team that local court officials were not receiving monthly salaries, noting that though it is not a justification for corruption, it however would serve as a recipe and therefore called on the Government of Sierra Leone to pay heed to their concerns. The engagement was climaxed by questions and answers on issues relating to corruption.