By Foday Moriba Conteh
On Friday 7th June, 2020, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) commenced strategic supervision and monitoring of Emergency Response Projects across the country. The exercise, which comes after a month since the Commission launched the Special Task Force on Transparency and Accountability in the utilization of COVID 19 Funds, is geared towards ensuring that the targeted beneficiaries for the World Bank supported the National Commission for Social Action (NaCSA) direct cash transfer efforts, are captured in a transparent and accountable manner.
In a Radio Talk show hosted on Kambui Agriculture Radio 92.3 FM in Kenema on Monday, June 8th 2020, Deputy Commissioner (DC) of the ACC, Augustine Foday Ngobie warned that officers handling the cash transfer project must be very careful, adding that anyone caught manipulating the system for selfish purposes will face the full penalty of the law as provided for under the Anti-Corruption Act of 2008 (As Amended in 2019).
“Our mandate in this particular cash transfer provided by World Bank through NaCSA is to ensure that the specific categories of persons affected by the economic downturn due to Covid-19 in Bo, Kenema, Makeni and Port Loko are captured,” DC Ngobie emphasized.
He further warned that the moneys transferred to the targeted beneficiaries are not in any way to be given to other persons in the form of bribes, but purely meant to cushion the economic burden on business owners in the targeted regions of the country.
Ngobie also added that the cash transfer is not meant for any political party, local leaders or groups other than those targeted, who are in the informal sector so as to ensure that their businesses do not hit rock-bottom with the outbreak of the pandemic which has halted many viable commercial activities in Sierra Leone.
While commenting on the penalties for abusing the cash transfer system, the Coordinator for Operations at the ACC, Emmanuel Koivaya Amara Esq. reminded the people of Bo Kenema, Makeni and Port Loko that President Bio’s administration signed an agreement with the World Bank in 2019 for US$30 million, a grant from the International Development Association (IDA), to finance the Social Safety Net (SSN) Project which initially targeted 35,000 beneficiaries in all 16 districts in the country.
Launched by President Julius Maada Bio in early 2020 in Kenema, Mr Amara added that, many great and positive testimonies were told about the involvement of the Anti-Corruption Commission in the World Bank Project, something he said is a motivator for the Commission’s continued strategic role in the project. He furthered however to abhor the manipulation of the exercise.
“Any person who has gone through registration, verification and subsequent cash transfer must not by any means give money to anyone, and that anybody caught soliciting such moneys from beneficiaries will be arrested and further investigated,” Mr. Amara emphasized.
He therefore encouraged beneficiaries to report to the ACC forthwith, through officers attached to the payment systems if anybody solicits a bribe from them.
In a similar engagement, the Deputy Commissioner of the ACC and team visited verification points in Bo and Kenema communities to supervise and monitor the registration, verification and payment exercises so as to get first-hand insight into the entire payment system.
The Team is expected in Makeni and Port Loko regions in the coming days.
The World Bank funded pro-poor project, implemented by NaCSA, targets the most vulnerable fragment of society who are provided direct cash to ease the devastating effects of poverty and economic harshness on their lives.
The Corona Virus pandemic and the consequent declaration of a state of emergency occasioned the need for funding for Emergency Cash Transfers (ECTs) to vulnerable persons and businesses within the Sierra Leonean population.
The scheme targets households with informal sector workers including those working in micro and small enterprises and low-paid workers in the service sector in the regional headquarters.
The Social Safety Net (SSN) is implemented by three partners; NaCSA, the parent implementing agency, Statistics Sierra Leone, which is charged with the responsibility to ensure that the targeted deserving beneficiaries are selected for payment; and the ACC which supervises and monitors the process to ensure accountability and transparency and also crucially provides an avenue for grievance redress.