Francis Ben Kelfala, Commissioner for Sierra Leone’s Anti Corruptions Commission (ACC), has told journalists that without any prejudice and with all due respect for the judge, the Commission plans to appeal the ruling on Monday that saw SLFA President Isha Johansen and Christo Kamara being acquitted and discharged.
He said the Commission will appeal because it disagrees with the judge’s interpretation of Misappropriation of Public Funds.
Francis in his own words said: “While I was away in Vienna, the judgement was sent to me, I had reviewed it and my preliminary observation of the judgement is that the ACC has discontent at the way the judge addressed the issue of Misappropriation of Public Funds. The precedent that he has established is very dangerous for the fight against corruption, particularly when the court rules on what constitutes Misappropriation. We have no issue with his general judgement, he is the judge and we respect his decision but we believe those issues have to be looked into by a higher tribunal and that is why we are constituting an appeal against that. We at the ACC are doing the right thing and we are doing this in the interest of the country. Corruption is a very dangerous thing and for so long we have been babysitting corruption in Sierra Leone. For the first time the people can see that real effort has been put in fighting corruption. We have won seventeen state cases this is the first case that we have lost”.
In another development, the ACC announced that it has entered into a settlement agreement with MESSRS SAMA SESAY, ABDUL MOHAMED KARGBO and JOSEPH CONTEH-Revenue Officers of the National Revenue Authority (NRA) attached to the Immigration Department, to repay the sum of three hundred million Leones (Le 300,000,000), representing the full amount they had been investigated for.
According to the agreement reached with the ACC, as settlement, each of the three NRA staff is required to pay one hundred million Leones (Le 100,000,000).
At the commencement of the agreement, MR. SESAY agreed to pay and has paid fifty million Leones (Le50,000,000) cash; MR. KARGBO agreed to pay and has paid fifty million Leones (Le50,000,000) cash; and MR. CONTEH agreed to pay and has paid fifty million Leones (Le50,000,000) cash. The remaining amounts of money due the ACC should be paid not later than 31st July, 2019.
It could be recalled that in April 2019, the ACC instituted an investigation into the operations of NRA staff attached to the Immigration Department Headquarters in Freetown following reports that funds generated at the Department were not properly accounted for, as there were variances between the original receipts issued to customers and the duplicate copies maintained by NRA.
Our investigations discovered a long standing corrupt practice known as “carding”; a fraudulent process through which public servants place a card under the original receipt so the actual amount written on it does not get recorded on the duplicate which remains as the actual record of the NRA. They then place a white sheet of paper on the duplicate and write a lesser amount on it. After that, they keep the difference in the amounts on the original and the duplicate receipt to themselves and pay the lesser amount on the duplicate to the State. The amount they keep could be far more than what ends up going to the NRA. The ACC settled this case because the duplicate receipts are illegible and the evidence will be difficult to rely on upon prosecution.
The Commission wishes to further reassure the public that it shall not relent in ensuring that public funds are protected, and where necessary, recovered.