''All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing'' - Edmund Burke


S I E R R A  H E R A L D

Vol 9 No 7

The tendency sometimes to protect perpetrators for the sake of peace...doesn't help society. Impunity should not be allowed to stand. - Kofi Annan on Waki report

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Friday July 20, 2012 - Former Anti Corruption Chief tells UN meeting that the fight against corruption can only be effective if Anti Corruption Commissions are strong and truly independent adding that the fight against the scourge should not be seen as the sole responsibility of Anti Corruption Commissions. UN top official describes corruption as a poison in the bloodstream of society...neither peace, development nor human rights can flourish in an atmosphere of corruption.

On July 9th and 10th the United Nations Economic and Social Council's (ECOSOC) held very crucial discussions on the theme "Accountability, Transparency and Sustainable Development - Turning Challenges into Opportunities" which was addressed by UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon, his deputy and a host of other international experts on corruption and its impact on countries and their peoples in the areas of good governance, security and development. More than 500 delegates, including government ministers and heads of civil society groups, international institutions and the private sector, attended the Council’s high-level segment, which focussed on boosting productive capacity, strengthening development cooperation and creating decent, sustainable work.Mr Abdul Tejan-Cole former Sierra Leone anti-graft chief

The UN Chief Scribe Ban Ki-Moon highlighted the horrors unleashed on the poor by corrupt governments, institutions and their functionaries when he stated -

"Usually the people with the least power bear the greatest cost. They must pay bribes for services that should be their right – such as a driver’s license or health care… or fair treatment by police or a fair hearing before an impartial court. Such corruption feeds criminality, it impairs economies, weakens democracy and fuels public distrust...neither peace, development nor human rights can flourish in an atmosphere of corruption. The impact of corruption is particularly profound in societies where the rule of law is fragile and institutions are weak...last year, corruption prevented 30 per cent of all development assistance from reaching its final destination. This translates into bridges, hospitals and schools that were never built, and people living without the benefit of these services. This is a failure of accountability and transparency. We cannot let it persist."

UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson also added his voice to the call for governments and others to be transparent and accountable and most importantly described corruption as a poison in the bloodstream of society.

Eliasson underlined that no society can function without honesty and trust, and that corruption is a threat to sustainable development. He therefore urged accountability among donors, recipients and partners, and highlighted the importance of all stakeholders participating in efforts to end corruption. Eliasson called on governments to include anti-corruption measures in all national development programmes adding - "the work against corruption is even more important in weak and fragile countries – some just emerging from conflict – where the rule of law and institutions are still vulnerable." He went on -

"No society — no social contract — can function without honesty, without trust. That is why we demand accountability from donors, recipients and partners. And that is why we must continue to wage a serious fight against corruption. Corruption is a threat to sustainable development and the moral fibre of societies. We cannot stop, for instance, illegal logging, wanton pollution or the sale of stolen or counterfeit drugs on street markets while corruption persists. If transparency and accountability offer hope, corruption, their polar opposite, offers only despair and fear to millions of people. Corruption is a crime, but it is also the lubricant for other crimes. And almost always, and ultimately, the primary victims are the poor. It is therefore vital that Governments include anti-corruption measures in all national development programmes. We recommend that Governments take advantage of measures under the Convention against Corruption to prevent the transfer abroad of stolen assets and to assist in the recovery and return of such assets to their countries of origin. We also appeal to the private sector, through initiatives such as the Global Compact, to help eliminate corruption which distorts markets, increases costs and punishes consumers — all of us. The private sector is an increasingly important partner in global poverty reduction and development efforts. It has a key role in fighting corruption and creating a more transparent global economy. Civil society is also pivotal. Public engagement and participation is fundamental for building accountable, transparent societies. And special attention needs to be devoted to empowering women to help keep their societies honest. It is far too often women who pay the price for corruption in their daily life."

During a special session dedicated to the exchange of experiences of tackling corruption and the work of Anti Corruption Commissions, one of Sierra Leone's finest, the one and only Abdul Tejan-Cole the former head of the Anti Corruption Commission in Sierra Leone dilated on his own three-year experience while trying to fight corruption in the country. He traced the history of the Anti Corruption Commission set-up in Sierra Leone reminding the audience that the then government did not take upon itself to tackle corruption by setting up the body but was forced to do so by donors who wanted to see those engaged in rampant corruption at the time brought to account.

"When the Commission itself was set up in 2000, it was largely set up not as a result of the desire of the government of Sierra Leone to implement a genuine anti-corruption reform, but largely because of the pressure it was receiving from the donors. And so a law was put in place that was extremely weak and ended up frustrating the staff of the Anti Corruption Commission because many instances where they collected the evidence and wanted to prosecute, they found they were hamstrung by the law. The fact that the law itself was extremely weak made sure the fight against corruption did not move forward or did not progress."

That was during the Tejan Kabbah government.

The no-nonsense crime fighter said that when he took office as head of the Anti Corruption Commission in 2008, one of his top priorities was to amend the law which brought in the new Anti Corruption Act of 2008.

"Interestingly as we struggled to get the Anti Corruption Commission law passed by Parliament, a Parliament itself which at the time had some reservations about passing such a strong law, we found the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) extremely useful. In many instances when Parliamentarians tried to argue as to why, for example, unjust enrichment should not be included in the law of Sierra Leone we merely showed them a copy of UNCAC and used it as a justification to ensure that it was put into the new law."

It was during this UN meeting/discussions that Mr Abdul Tejan-Cole made a profound statement that should well be heeded by the Ernest Bai Koroma corruption empire.

"Many meetings I have attended, people have suggested that Anti Corruption Commissions do not succeeded...I think they fail because they have been set up to fail"

And he offers this solution - "Anti Corruption Commissions can succeed if they are given the right mandate and the right powers. Security of appointment of the Commissioner is very crucial. In many instances, this is lacking and when Commissioner depends on his appointment on the President or some other institution as Parliament that Commission is hamstrung from the very onset."

Mr Tejan-Cole then highlighted a basic flaw in the 2008 Anti Corruption Act -

"Although we in the Commission proposed that a group of citizens including civil society, religious leaders, people from the media should actually nominate two candidates for the President to select one of the the two, this was not approved by Parliament and Parliament felt that it was the President's sole choice to decide who should be the Commissioner. But my sense, quite candidly, unless and until we have a Commissioner who is not solely appointed by the President and who can get credibility from a broader group of individuals within society, there would still be question marks about his independence and the role that that individual can play"

The former head of Sierra Leone's Anti Corruption Commission was of the considered view that the ACC should not be the only body that should be engaged in the fight against corruption calling for what he called a multiple strategy.

"In the Sierra Leone context as well as a common mistake that a lot of people always make is that Anti Corruption alone can fight corruption and I think this is a real mistake because many times when Anti Corruption Commissions are formed, most institutions simply hand over the fight against corruption to the Commission saying - "It's your task, it's your mandate, it's your responsibility"

Not so says the former ACC Chief and we would urge the corrupt cabal in Sierra Leone headed by the magician himself to take a good look again at the reports of the Auditor General as presented to Parliament and published for all to read and know about the massive and rising levels of corruption that is poisoning Sierra Leone society - ranging from the double payments milked out of state coffers each time the President visits the United Nations for the annual General Assembly meeting to the massive rape of the country's purse strings by missions peopled by thieving staff put in place when the magician took over the reins of government in 2007.

Let us again remind the Ernest Bai Koroma government of the preface of the report on the handling of government's finances in 2010 as published in the report of the Audit Department of the Sierra Leone Government - a document which has been largely ignored by Ernest Bai Koroma and his gang of state looters who continue to rape the country's resources with impunity

"Law and order and good government sit at the very core of a well-functioning State. Sound public financial management is a key component of good government. The whole works together to form an environment to attract direct investment, foreign and domestic, and permits the State, should it so wish, to raise long and short term funding from the international financial markets. It is also crucial to creating a context that facilitates the assessment and orderly collection of tax revenue and other levies from all sources; as well as shaping a civil society that recognizes and values the legal obligation and civic duty to pay to the State that which it is due.

Only a well-functioning Sierra Leone can deliver the essential support and services that the citizens elected our Parliament and government to provide. Audit Service Sierra Leone (ASSL), as the external auditor of the government, builds the confidence of all stakeholders in our State institutions. It supports our nation in its ongoing effort to achieve financial self-reliance. This is the journey we are embarked upon and the destination is one that a handful of developing countries in Africa have achieved. We strive to be counted in their number and ASSL has a part to play in getting there."


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