A report from an independent evaluation of budget support to Sierra Leone from 2002 to 2015 has strongly indicted the country’s anti-graft agency, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), of failing to convict high profile cases over the years, thus creating a serious financial gap as a result of corrupt practices.
The report, titled ‘DFID Global Evaluation Services Framework Agreement’, and which was funded by the World Bank, European Union and DFID, among others, revealed that despite the ACC having got a wider national coverage of operations with district and regional offices, strengthened prosecutorial powers through the revised AC Act of 2008 and also established integrity committees, clubs in MDAs among others, yet conviction of high profile cases remained a challenge.
The report looked at the contribution of budget support for the implementation of quality governance and accountability, but more importantly, the researchers focused on the roles of Parliament, civil society, the office of the Auditor General and the Anti-Corruption Commission as watchdogs of society.
“We draw on information provided in government documents and related report by IMF, as well as on interviews with stakeholders within those accountable institutions. The ACC received considerable technical assistance support from DFID and from other budget support,” Andrew Lawson, the lead researcher, said.
Deputy Minister of Finance, Foday B. Mansaray, said the report is an important document that provides opportunities to assess government and budget support partners’ performance in the implementation of mutually agreed commitments that are considered essential for Sierra Leone’s growth and attaining an overall poverty reduction.
He said the report assessed the extent to which budget support has contributed to the achievement of the objectives laid down in the joint memorandum of understanding with development partners, as well as budget support partners.
“We are pleased to inform you that government continues to broaden and strengthen public financial management reforms in Sierra Leone. Important governance institutions have been created since 2002, including the NRA, Auditor General’s Office and ACC, and public finance information has greatly improved,” he said.
Over the 13-year period of evaluation, Sierra Leone received a total of US$886 million in direct budget support, equivalent to an average of US$68 million per year, the deputy Minister of Finance added, noting further that government is committed to limiting reforms to ensure efficient utilisation of donor support and continue on the path of reducing poverty in the country.
In his response to the report, ACC Public Relations Officer, Alhassan Kargbo, said they have not officially received the said report from the international donors mentioned to have commissioned it, noting however that the commission has put a lot of mechanisms in place to fight corruption in the country.
He said over the years, the ACC has engaged ministries, departments and agencies to collaboratively work in the fight against corruption, and that it is the responsibility of the commission to investigate, charge and prosecute matters in court but left with the judiciary to convict individuals before the court.
“This report spanned from 2002 to 2015 and during this period the ACC embarked on series of activities to fight corruption in Sierra Leone,” said Mr. Kargbo. “There is no ministry now in this country that does not have an anti-corruption desk. We had even indicted ministers and top civil servants, including traditional and other local authorities for corruption.”
“The report is talking about not convicting high profile matters, but it is not the responsibility of the ACC to convict matters. But on a whole, the report acknowledges the effort of the ACC for establishing offices at regional, district and national levels; for creating a lot of awareness around corruption issues.”
Kargbo further pointed out that over the years people have been complaining to the ACC corrupt practices.
“It is always difficult to fight corruption entirely across the country but we have been able to do our best,” said Kargbo.
“The ACC is being commended the world over for our good work. We have the appropriate investigators and I am sure with the current administration we can move forward.”