By Foday Moriba Conteh
It could be recalled that in a recent publication by this medium it was reported that according to a Press Release issued by the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC), coming in the wake of an investigation it conducted and concluded , it was decided that the Mayor of the Freetown City Council, Yvonne Aki Sawyer and the Team Lead of the Mayor’s Delivery Unit (MDU), Manja Kargbo, were found wanting and therefore instructed to refund to the State the sum of One Hundred and Eighty-seven Million, Nine Hundred and Four Thousand, Eight Hundred and Thirty Leones (Le 187,904,830) or risk a legal action instituted against them.
However, in a sharp reaction to that decision and stance taken by the ACC, it was established that the details of the Mayor’s legal response were not acknowledged by the ACC but rather the ACC issued a press release on social media on 11th May 2022 in which it summarily rejected the response without a fair opportunity to be heard.
Clearly stated by the Mayor’s legal team it was stated that their response clearly highlights inter alia that Manja Kargbo has been the Team Lead of the Mayor’s Delivery Unit (MDU) since 2018.
In addition, they continued that the travel expenses paid in respect of air fares, hotel and per diem in respect of Manja Kargbo were done following Council’s procedures and with the signatures of the Mayor, the Chief Administrator (Vote Controller) and the Finance Officer but only the Mayor and Manja were investigated.
The Legal response furthered that Manja’s travel expenses of Le187,904,830 (equivalent of $14,500), through her work on those 6 trips, yielded for FCC investments of over $4m.
Also underscored was that as per the ACC Act 2008 Section 89 Subsection (I) b), re-payment of amounts would automatically result in the payer being barred from public office for a period of at least three years.
Continuing, it was maintained that it is clear that the ACC’s insistence on repayment of valid and legitimate travel expenses of the MDU Team lead by the Mayor will result in the Mayor being barred from holding public office for at least 3 years.
The legal argument stressed that rather than allowing the issue of the procedural audit query to be addressed via the parliamentary process, the ACC instead sought criminal prosecution for the exact same issue raised in the same Audit Report in respect of the Office of the First Lady (see page 434 of the Audit Service Sierra Leone Audit Report 2019, audit query number 5.50.2). Against that backdrop, it was argued that no action has been taken by the ACC about that audit query.
In conclusion, the legal team stated that the flagrant selective and inappropriate use of powers is clearly a bid to remove the elected opposition Mayor through the misuse of the mandate and authority of the ACC.