By Sulaiman B. Sowa
Locals councils are primarily tasked with the responsibility of facilitating development in their communities. Such responsibility comes with great expectations in the use of public resources. Therefore, in ensuring that local councils utilize these public resources in line with established financial regulations; the Eastern Regional Office of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has, on the 13th and 15th of April 2021, engaged staff of both Kenema District and City councils, respectively, on the principles of prudent financial management of public resources. The engagement was held at the offices of both councils in Kenema.
Speaking on the principles of prudent financial management of public resources; ACC’s Senior Public Education Officer Sulaiman B. Sowa, said that because local councils receive and expend huge sums of public resources, they need to implement prudent financial regulation to maximize development and prevent corruption. “To achieve this, officers at both local councils should first be knowledgeable about laws, policies and regulations guiding the use and management of public finances,” he said. To this, he encouraged his audience to know the provisions of the Public Financial Management Act of 2016, the 2016 National Public Procurement Act, the Public Financial Management Regulation and the Anti-Corruption Act of 2008 as amended in 2019.
Mr. Sowa browsed through several principles such as lawfulness, accountability, transparency, value for money and integrity as essential guides to the prudent use and management of public resources. He urged staff of both local councils to always evaluate their use of public resources against the backdrop that they have value for money and are within the ambits of the financial regulations. Mr. Sowa concluded by indulging the professionalism of local council staff to dedicate these principles in ensuring public funds are utilized for the intended purposes
On offences in the 2008 Anti-Corruption Act as amended in 2019, Quinton David, Investigation Officer, carefully categorized the offences as two fold, noting that some are specifically for public officers whilst others are for general body of all persons. He respectfully reminded his audience that corruption has been made very expensive as the amendment has brought about increased fines and jail terms, tilted the evidential burden on bribery and made restitution mandatory. He concluded that, with integrity and a commitment to national service, public officers can be immune to corruption.
Responding, Chief Administrator of the Kenema District Council, Ahmed Shekuba Koroma said the engagement was timely as it sought to educate and remind them that they were under statutory mandate to utilize public resources using best financial practices.
Chief Administrator of the Kenema City Council, Joseph Gando re-echoed the significance of the engagement as fruitful and educative. He informed all that ACC’s public education drive contributed to the performance of their Council as one of the best in the prudent use and management of public resources. He assured the Commission that staff of his Council will work with integrity and professionalism to prevent acts of corruption. Comments, questions and answers climaxed the engagement.