ACC Recovers Le12Bn in 8 Months

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Francis Ben Kaifala

During a press briefing held at the ACC’ headquarters in Freetown, the Coordinator of Activities of the institution, Mr. Amara disclosed that the Commission has been able to recover stolen monies to the tune of over Le12 billion. The meeting was organized to update the media and Civil Society Organizations on its activities since the newly appointed Commissioner, Ben Kaifala, assumed office.
Chairman of the meeting, Deputy Commissioner of the ACC, Shollay Davies maintained that upon assuming office, the ACC boss told the media and CSOs that regular meetings will be held to update the public on the progress it is making in the fight against corruption.
This meeting is a testimony of this commitment, adding that it is being done so as to avert all speculations and innuendoes about the Commission’s activities.
Giving a synopsis about the activities so far of the ACC, the Coordinator of Activities, Mr. Amara explained that a lot has taken place since the Commissioner took office last year. The ACC has been able to get some convictions and out of court settlements with various suspects, culminating in the recovery of Le12 billion in just eight months.
However, he stated that there are some cases being investigated and that some 40 cases are in Court. He explained that the Commission has been able to get special judges assigned to deal with corruption cases. This, he stated, is responsible for the fast tracking of cases in the court, adding that the ACC is pushing for a special court to handle all corruption cases.
He went on further to say that the Commission has been engaged in sensitization of communities, schools and colleges on the impact of corruption and the need to fight this scourge.
Mr. Amara went on to explain that conviction was obtained in the case involving some officials of the Ministry of Information with regards to a Le115 million squandered amount. He was pleased to announce that the convicts were given custodian sentences with no alternative.
He reiterated recovery of monies from Dr. Sarah Bendu and others on the Sierra Leone Maritime Administration saga, adding that they are paying back the monies misappropriated.
On the restructuring of the Commission, the Coordinator maintained that progress is being made and in this vein, regulations on the Declaration of Assets has been tabled in Parliament and would become law shortly. He further stated that the amendment of the ACC Act has been tabled in Parliament and will soon be debated for enactment.
Giving his update on his institution’s activities in the past 8 months, the ACC boss, Francis Ben Kaifala Esq. expressed appreciation to the CSOs and the media for their collaboration. He said recovery of stolen monies in the past 8 months is over Le12 billion with 11 convictions. This, according to him, has further enhanced the Commission’s ranking internationally. It has gained respect.
He went on to explain the rationale behind out of court settlements. He stressed that the speed and volume of cases investigated by the Commission, if charged to court will clog the already burdened system.
“Investigations into corruption cases are complex; they take time, recourses and it is the only offence where the suspect controls the evidence,” Francis Ben Kaifala stressed. A corruption offence is the only case where the one who commits the offence has all the evidence under his control. For the Commission to come with evidence of such magnitude against perpetrators is a testimony of the time and work put in their investigations.
It is this situation that has compelled the Commission to have such settlements to reduce the cost of trial to the country, get results in real time. He made reference to the 50th Anniversary case that has gone on for 8 years now with no end in sight. What will be the benefit to the nation? He stressed that whilst the court may order payment of certain amounts as fine, the out of court settlement ensures that the suspect pays back all what is stolen.
Ben Kaifala went on to explain that the monies collected can be used to provide health facilities for the country. He made reference to the absence of diagnostic facilities for certain diseases like kidney etc, which is causing Sierra Leoneans to go to Ghana for treatment, adding that majority of the country’s nationals cannot afford to fund such medical treatment. With the funds recovered, the Government can boost its health system with the necessary machinery to handle such ailments.
Speaking on the cases that are pending, Francis Ben Kaifala said that the allegations by the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC) that US$2 million was stolen by Sierra Leoneans during the Ebola scourge has been its priority when the year started and their findings are not in tandem with the claims of the International Organization.
The Commission, he stated, discovered that the said amount is as a result of the exchange rate in the bank. The Federation transferred US$21,760,000 (twenty-one million, seven hundred and sixty thousand dollars) through the FBN bank for the Sierra Leone Red Cross and during conversion of the dollar to the Leone; the rate of the bank was high and not negotiated.
In the view of the Commission, the finance delegates dealing with the account were from the IFRC and were all non-Sierra Leoneans. They handled all such transactions and no Sierra Leonean had any dealing with the said account. It is the duty of the said delegates to negotiate with the Bank. The other factor is that the rate used to ascertain that such a loss had taken place was the rate of the Standard Chartered Bank and not the bank they sent the money through.
According to the Bank of Sierra Leone regulations the Banks have a free hand to set their exchange rate for their customer, which is dictated by demand and supply, but are required to state the particular rate a transaction is carried out in their report.
He went on further to state that during their investigations they were in constant touch with the IFRC and were told that only one of the finance delegates working in the country then is the only individual still in their service and that the others have left the institution and returned to their respective countries (some were Nigerians and South Africans). This had far reaching repercussions for the country as donors held back funding.
He further informed his audience that there are pending cases under investigations; such as claims against the APC‘s Secretary General Osman Foday Yansaneh of receiving salaries after becoming Secretary General of the party , NATCOM investigations continues, investigations into the contract of the Fibre Optic has started, the Auction process at the quay and SLRA are all pending cases.
He called on all to take the fight as their own and assist the Commission with any relevant information about cases of corruption.
Several speakers expressed similar sentiments of commitment to the fight against corruption. The meeting was climaxed by a vote of thanks given by the Deputy Commissioner of the ACC.

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