By Sulaiman B. Sowa
As the Social Safety Net (SSN) Program is being rolled out to beneficiaries in mostly rural communities by direct cash transfers, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) Eastern Region Office in Kenema has engaged officers of the National Commission for Social Action (NaCSA) in the region on upholding integrity in the SSN program. The engagement took place at the NaCSA Eastern Region office in Kenema.
Senior Public Education Officer ACC, Sulaiman B. Sowa described integrity as a vital tool that will guarantee transparency and accountability in the implementation of the SSN program, thereby preventing incidences of corruption.
He said the work of NaCSA seeks to ensure social justice and poverty reduction which means that interaction between beneficiaries and NaCSA officers should be defined by honesty, impartiality, fairness and integrity. “Integrity facilitates transparency, prevents conflict of interest and ensures compliance with the law whilst promoting fair distribution of public benefits,” he added.
Mr. Sowa concluded by stating that the implementation of the SSN will enable officers to harmonize polices and best practices, manage public integrity expectations and understand the regulatory framework on the use and management of public funds.
Investigation Officer ACC, Quinton David explained some of the key offences in the Anti-Corruption Act of 2008 as amended in 2019 and outlined their corresponding penalties, noting that crimes of corruption can be by an act of commission or omission. He singled out Misappropriation of Public/Donor Funds/Property, Abuse of Office, Soliciting and Accepting Advantage and Bribery as offences that carry a minimum fine of Fifty Million Leones or a jail term of not less than five years. He therefore encouraged all to play by the rules and avoid all acts of corruption.
Eastern Region Coordinator NaCSA, MoribaFoday, said the engagement was necessary and fruitful as it availed them the opportunity to be educated, sensitized and reminded about their duty to serve within the ambits of the law. He paid tribute to the ACC for the tremendous gains made in the fight against corruption in the last three years.
Mr. Foday said, the SSN is the biggest project implemented by NaCSA and therefore pledged their unflinching support to the fight against corruption and urged all staff to manifest high levels of integrity at all times.
The SSN program is an effort by the Government of Sierra Leone and the World Bank to tackle poverty among the poorest of the poor. It seeks to provide income support to 13,000 extremely poor households in targeted Districts in the country through direct cash transfers implemented by NaCSA. The ACC is handling the Grievance Redress Mechanism (GRM) component of the project.
A question-and-answer session climaxed the engagement.