ACC Vexed -Tough Laws Await Corrupt Officials

 

When he took over as Commissioner of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) under President Julius Maada Bio’s ‘New Direction’ governance ideology, Francis Ben Kaifala Esq. vowed that his administration would make corruption a highly risky and unprofitable enterprise for those that would want to engage in the bad practice.

The ACC has made good of this pledge by tabling in Parliament a revised ACC Act, 2008 that, among other things, prescribes prohibitive penalties for anyone found guilty of engaging in corruption by law.

The new revised, reviewed and amended ACC Act more or less seeks to increase the penalty for the 27 offenses listed by the ACC as corruption.

In the old Act, presiding Judges had the discretion of either fining the guilty not less than Le30 million or three years in prison. It is the ACC’s belief that this penalty is not sufficient deterrent. So in the revised Act, the anti-graft agent wants the penalty for corruption to include fine, imprisonment and, most importantly, restitution – recovery of the full amount that was misappropriated. According to report, the object of the amendment is to prohibit people from thinking that they can either pay a fine or go to jail and when they come out, live to enjoy the fruit of their criminal enterprise. As such, the new clause in Subsection 4 of Section 26 states that for misappropriation, if found guilty, in addition to existing penalty, the convict should be ordered by the Judge to pay the full amount misappropriated into the Consolidated Revenue Fund.

Another aspect of the revised ACC Act that is covered, according to report, is that of witness protection. While ACC states it has no evidence of its witnesses having ever been subjected to harassment or intimidation; in order to encourage witness, whistleblowers, informants and confidential persons in Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to come forward with evidence for prosecution, that section of the law is also strengthened.

The ACC also believes that there should be a viable alternative to prosecution for corruption offenses, and that is plea bargaining with the Commission if the person accused so wishes, which is cheaper for both parties than going to court. In such a case, ACC has added a clause that if an accused agrees to pay back what was taken, that accused should also agree to excuse himself/herself from public service for three years. Section 89 as being accordingly repealed and replaced.

In addition to prosecution and plea bargaining, ACC notes that it will also step up public education in its bid to engage the nation as active partners in the fight against corruption.

Another area of the law ACC wants revised is asset declaration. ACC thinks it does not make sense for all civil servants, including those as lowly as cleaners and drivers to declare their assets as required under the current provision. Instead, ACC wants to limit asset declaration to: 1. All public officials holding elective offices

  1. All persons appointed by the President
  2. All district officials
  3. Public servants on Grade 7 and above
  4. Some public officials below Grade 7 that handle public money, engage in research, make decisions, issue licenses, work in regulatory agencies, and deal with compliance and inspection.

Another aspect of the law that the ACC wants revised is one that has to do with impersonation. Under the current law in Section 76, the punishment is lenient – Le3 million or six months in jail. ACC wants this lifted to not less than Le30 million and not less than three years in jail.

Another area of the law ACC wants revised the one on contracts and procurements where ACC states the temptation to corruption is very high as that is where government spends the highest amount of money. Under Section 26, ACC wants the law to be amended to include the Commissioner having the discretionary power to call for a contract to be terminated if the ACC believes it is not in the best interest of the state and the people.

A Provision, however, is made for the affected party to appeal the Commissioner’s decision in court within seven working days. This revised and amended ACC Act is now before Parliament for consideration and ratification.