DR. DENNIS BRIGHT, CHAIRMAN AND LEADER NGC
As the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) updated the public that the High Court of Sierra Leone presided over by Hon. Justice A.T. Ganda on 25 February convicted Bockarie Sheku Mattia, a supervisor on contract with Statistics Sierra Leone’s Bo office on one count of soliciting an advantage of one hundred thousand leones, which is less than ten US dollars, Dr. Denis Bright has told Beyond Borders that corruption does not only belong to yesterday.
The convicted Mattia was ordered to pay a fine of Fifty Million Leones (Le: 50,000,000), within a period of one month, effective the date of the judgment or serve a five-year imprisonment term. According to the particulars of offence, between 1st and 3rd June, 2020, in Bo, Mattia, while on a verification exercise for the World Bank-supported Social Safety Net program, meant to alleviate poverty from the poorest of Sierra Leoneans, solicited the sum of One Hundred Thousand Leones from a potential beneficiary of the scheme.
Dr. Bright maintains that while the ACC is continuing to do its job, the Commission is not prosecuting “the big guns”, including the government ministers that have not accounted for the 49,000 bags of Chinese rice but is instead chasing the small thieves.
“When the President took over in 2018, the very first action that he took was to send the signal that he was very much interested in addressing this problem of corruption in a very definitive way,” he said. He recalled that a transitional committee was headed by the Chief Minister with a damning report on the previous administration based on corruption.
The NGC Chairman said that Commissions of Inquiry set up came to the conclusion that corruption was rife in the previous administration. “A White Paper indicted or convicted certain public officials in the previous regime. The process is still on now as to whether they are paying or refunding or whether their houses are seized or properties will be confiscated. We all believed that this was a very positive move on the part of the Government. We used that as an indicator of the Government’s determination to fight corruption,” he recounted and stressed, “But corruption does not only belong to yesterday. Corruption is still here with us and we believe that the kind of energy that this Government used to prosecute the so-called suspects of the previous regime, we thought they will replicate the same energy in maintaining the stance of the ACC.”
Sounding very disappointed, Dr. Bright said, “In 2018, the Audit Report came out with gross mismanagement of public funds to the tune of over 148 Billion Leones and we were surprised for a Government that is supposed to be fighting corruption. But also in 2019, the numbers have increased to 177 Billion Leones, so we actually find out that corruption is on the increase. Mismanagement is on the increase and basically, this has to do with the way people handle public money. We are talking about a reckless approach towards handling public money. So what we discovered now is that on the one part the Government seems to be very good at pursuing corrupt culprits in the previous regime but when it comes home to their own time, it seems as if it is becoming very difficult for them. We are beginning to believe that they are now selective. They seem to have been doing a very good job at the beginning, collecting monies, but it seems to be otherwise now.” Dr. Bright said, “D arata don big pass d puss” which he explained to mean that corruption is now bigger than those fighting the menace.
Speaking to Beyond Borders a few days ago, the Director of Public Education and Outreach, Patrick Sandi said “the ACC is under attack”. He clarified that the Chinese rice issue was not yet over.