EBOLA Corruption Indictments in Sierra Leone

CARL Welcomes Latest Acc Indictments; Urges More Action Against Corruption

Friday 19th December 2014:
The Center for Accountability and Rule of Law (CARL) commends the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) for its efforts at combating corruption in Sierra Leone. In particular, CARL welcomes the recent indictments by the Commission of some public officials for various acts of corruption. On December 12, the Commission announced the indictment of seven persons, including public officials and employees of non-government organisations (NGOs) for various offences ranging from improperly conferring an advantage, obtaining an advantage to conspiracy to commit a corruption offences, and misappropriation of donor property (meant for Ebola quarantined homes in Kenema).

Members of the public may recall that since the outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease, there have been several rumours or complaints of corruption in the fight against Ebola. Eradicating the virus has been a huge challenge, and sadly, it has turned out that another ‘virus’ – which has almost single handedly undermined the country’s economic and development aspirations over the years – has refused to go away even during this difficult period in our country’s history; namely, corruption. While the indictees are presumed innocent until proven otherwise by a competent court of law, the indictments are indicative that the fight against Ebola may have been fraught with acts of corruption.

“It seems we are now fighting two viral diseases—Ebola and corruption. While I am optimistic that we can win the fight against the medical virus sooner than later, based on recent evidence, I can see no end in sight in our fight against corruption, and it will remain a daunting task if tough action is not taken against defaulters”, the Executive Director of CARL, Mr. Ibrahim Tommy, said.

It is important to stress that there are many more cases allegations that the Anti-Corruption Commission needs to investigate. We can recall that on Tuesday 16th December 2014, the Mayor of Kenema City Council, Joseph S. Keifala, claimed on FM 98.1 Radio that the council’s annual budget for 2015 could not be approved because the council had refused to pay a bribe to members of the Parliamentary Sub-Appropriation Committee had requested. Also, the NERC recently discovered that the scheme for the payment of hazard allowance to Ebola Response workers was fraught with irregularities such as ghost workers, and so on.

While we welcome these latest indictments and commend the ACC for their sustained fight against corruption, we urge the ACC to fully probe into all these corruption allegations involving public officials and institutions and put out a report or where the information meets evidentiary basis for corruption charges, go ahead and indict those responsible. In particular, we urge the ACC to speedily investigate corruption allegations against members of the Sub-Appropriation Committee of Parliament, rumours of fraudulent procurement of ambulances and other Ebola-related supplies by government, as well as alleged irregularities in the scheme for the payment of hazard allowance to Ebola Response workers. Where the investigation shows that there is no merit in the allegations, it would also be helpful for the Commission to publish such reports.

“Ensuring transparency and accountability in the use of funds and property meant for the fight against Ebola is as urgent a need as any vaccine or cure needed for the virus”, Mr. Tommy said, adding, “A critical step towards combating ebola and overcoming our development challenges is accountability for public resources”.

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