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COMMENTS & OPINIONS  

Can the Anti-Corruption Commission be effective in the absence of prosecutorial powers? in Sierra Leone
By Melron C. Nicol- Wilson
Mar 23, 2006, 11:35
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When the Anti-Corruption Act was passed by the Sierra Leone Parliament on the 3rd of February, 2000, it was widely acclaimed by the Sierra Leonean populace and the International Community as a move in the Rights direction in the fight against corruption by Public Officials.

The Anti-Corruption Act of 2000 repealed the outdated and insignificant Prevention of Corruption Act in Chapter 33 of the Laws of Sierra Leone of 1960.

The Anti-Corruption Act established the Anti-­Corruption Commission "to investigate instances of alleged or suspected corrup­tion... and to take steps as may necessary for the eradication or suppression of corrupt practices".

In carrying out this all important function, the Commission is authorized "to educate the Public against the evils of corruption; to enlist and foster public support in combating corrup­tion and to instruct, advise and assist any per­son or authority on ways in which corrupt prac­tices may be reduced or eliminated".

The Anti-Corruption Commission was therefore given investigation, education and adviso­ry powers in relation to the combating of cor­ruption in Sierra Leone. The Commission was not given any power to prosecute persons sus­pected of having committed acts of corruption. A vehicle (the Anti-Corruption Commission) was therefore manufactured by Parliament without an engine (the power to Prosecute individual suspected of having committed acts of corruption).

WHO CAN PROSECUTE?

The Anti-Corruption Act of 2000 gives the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice the Authority and power to Prosecute Individual "If after examining a report referred to him by the Commissioner under Section 36, the Attorney­-General and Minister of Justice decides that there are sufficient grounds to prosecute the Public Officer concerned, he shall do so in the High Court or Magistrate’s Court".

Thus, in accordance with Article 37, it is only the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice that can take a decision on whether or not an individual investigated by the Commission can be prosecut­ed or not.

The Anti-Corruption Commission can only investigate and refer the findings of the inves­tigation to the Attorney-General. It is the Attorney-General who can prosecute.

THE PRACTICAL SIGNIFICANCE

The Anti-Corruption Act has subjected the determi­nation of a decision to prosecute corrupt officials to a political appointee- The Attorney-General, who is part of the cabinet. .

Thus if the Attorney-General is instructed by his political superiors not to prosecute an official who the Commission has Investigated and is suspect­ed of having committed an Act of Corruption, that official will never be prosecuted.

Hence, the Anti-Corruption Commission may have referred hundreds of cases to the Attorney General, that have not been prosecuted due to political and other considerations preventing the Attorney-General from prosecuting.

The situation may become more difficult if the Attorney-General is suspected of having commit­ted an Act of Corruption. After investigating him, the findings will have to be referred to him for a decision on whether or not he should institute Legal Proceedings against himself. Would the Attorney-General institute Criminal Proceedings against himself?

THE WAY FORWARD

For the fight against corruption to achieve signifi­cant ground in Sierra Leone, the Anti-Corruption Commission must be given the authority to prose­cute and not only to investigate. This will lead to impartiality in the institution of Legal Proceedings against public.


© Copyright by Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

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