The North-West Regional office of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has on Friday 13th August 2021 held a sensitization meeting on corruption with staff of the Ministries of Social Welfare and Gender and Children’s Affairs at the Ministry’s Conference Hall in Port Loko.
Both ministries are charged with the responsibility of responding to the social needs pertaining to Gender inequalities, social depravity among others in Sierra Leone.
Addressing staff of both ministries, ACC Regional Manager Al-Hassan Sesay said Corruption has accounted for the distortion and diversion of government welfare programmes and undermined the goals and vision of development. He noted that the true value of the loot or funds meant to address poverty and other forms of human suffering could have addressed the welfare of citizens to a significant proportion.
Giving an overview of the offences in the Anti-Corruption Act as amended, Mr Sesay explained related corruption offences including offering, soliciting and accepting advantage, corrupting a public officer, abuse of office and abuse of position, receiving gift for corrupt purpose, misappropriation of public funds and property among others. With the presence of the ACC in the region, he warned them to desist from corrupt practices or face the anti-graft laws. The Regional head went on to note that working in the ministry either on voluntary and on casual basis makes all of the staff public officers and are covered by the ACC laws.
He informed them that in an effort to strengthen the anti-corruption laws, the Commission through the 2019 amendment Act of the ACC, has been empowered to cancel all contract deemed not to be in the interest of the public or a section thereof, strengthened and narrowed the asset declaration regime, trial in absentia, restitution, examination malpractice as a punishable offence and jail terms and fines increased to not less than five years and fifty million Leone respectively.
The Public Education Officer Mohamed Thullah who spoke on ethics and the various reporting mechanisms available at the ACC said corruption diverts the limited funds for social services interventions, undermines economic progress and impedes policy changes required for sector growth. Commenting on the unquantifiable damage of the effects of corruption to nation building, he called on all staff to make firm resolve and consensus in winning the fight against graft. He pointed out that corrupt acts, maladministration, deviant public officers and other forms of inefficiencies should be seriously guarded against.
Mr. Thullah said it was imperative on the side of management to institute internal control measures that will guard against mismanagement of public funds and to further ensure that activities and operations of the ministry are in consonant with best practices. He underscored the significance of reporting corruption and highlighted various reporting mechanisms available at the Commission.
The Social Service Officer attached to the Port Loko City Council Moses Massaquoi in his welcome statement thanked the ACC Team for taking a laudable move to sensitize and engage staff on various issues on corruption. He described the meeting as an educative platform which would serve as a guide in the performance of their duties. His counterpart attached at the Port Loko District Council Foday S. Bangura also expressed similar sentiments and looked forward to effective collaboration between the two institutions.