From Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown

COMMENTS & OPINIONS
Anti-Corruption, DFID Demands, SLPP & APC
By Sylvia O. Blyden
Aug 21, 2009, 17:22

Sorie Fofana’s article on the Anti Corruption Commission in yesterday’s papers was largely correct save for a few glaring factual errors. For a start, it was not Sanpha Koroma who was convicted and had his conviction squashed. To the best of my knowledge, Sanpha Koroma has never been convicted of anything. I believe one person who was convicted of corruption and had this conviction squashed on appeal was Hon. Momoh Pujeh, an erstwhile Transport Minister under President Tejan Kabbah who is ironically the current defacto SLPP Minority Leader in Parliament though he suffers from on a protracted illness that has limited his duties. Momoh Pujeh was an SLPP serving minister (A BIG FISH like Oswald Hanciles would say) who was hurled to court by the Anti Corruption Commission during the SLPP regime on a corruption related matter involving diamonds only to have his conviction squashed not on the facts but on a constitutional issue. I suspect the other SLPP Big Fish cited was the then SLPP Agriculture Minister Harry Will who was also convicted and proceeded to have his conviction squashed on appeal.

SANPHA KOROMA

Sanpha Koroma was investigated for some two years by the ACC and nothing untoward was found against him. The ACC even imported several Scotland Yard officials who turned and skimmed and browsed all the pages and yet still no evidence of corruption was unearthed. So Sanpha Koroma, being the no-nonsense man he is, took the ACC to court for harassing him and the court ruled in his favour and the ACC had to pay him damages. So indeed, Sanpha and the ACC were in court but in civil court and not criminal court and it was Sanpha Koroma who was the aggrieved litigant and not the other way around. So Sorie, please take due note that the criminal matter that Pa Kabbah referenced in his Handing Over speech was that of Momoh Pujeh and not Sanpha Koroma. Former President Kabbah, being the gentleman he is, actually made a public apology to Sanpha Koroma on behalf of the Government for the harassment that Sanpha Koroma faced.

LIZ MANNS

Sorie is quite correct to say that Val Collier’s ACC had allegedly implied (rightly or wrongly) that Liz Manns was an extra-marital lover to Sanpha Koroma and part of Sanpha’s civil suit against the ACC cited this invasion into his private life which had included the freezing of private bank accounts of Liz Manns. The reality though is that Liz Manns made her money as a business woman. Liz Manns was a beneficiary of Hundreds and Hundreds and Hundreds of Millions of Leones of Donor Funded contracts during SLPP era such as Feeding contract for ex-combatants. The money she pocketed was made from her dealings with the "SLPP mafia" at that time. She is definitely one of the beneficiaries of SLPP’s largesse and is an SLPP Donor Funds beneficiary. Whether the SLPP was really corruptly pocketing Donor Funds or whether Madam Liz Manns was a beneficiary of corruption, is yet to be proven. What is a fact is that today, Liz Manns, the SLPP Beneficiary has turned her back on the SLPP and is the current Leader of the APC Women’s Wing, a very powerful woman in the current social set-up and a close ally of the famous Ms. Arabella Foray. They both travelled to Kailahun in the wake of the mistaken identity Radio Broadcasts and have both vowed to try to move Kailahun voters away from the SLPP to the APC.

DFID’S DEMANDS FOR AG’S REMOVAL

Under the SLPP during President Kabbah’s tenure, Sorie Fofanah is quite correct that DfID wanted the Attorney General (AG) to be removed from the prosecution of Corruption matters in Sierra Leone and this became a sticking point that soured relations between Kabbah and DfID. The APC capitalised on this and used it as a Campaign Tool so when President Koroma came into office, he enacted Laws and amended the Constitution to allow ACC the powers to initiate corruption cases without going through the Attorney General. A lot of noise was made about this issue and the APC Government got a lot of dividend out of these alleged moves to grant the ACC complete independence from the Attorney General in corruption matters. It was all a smokescreen. The reality is that the AG still has powers that super-cede those of the ACC at the Courts and as he requested and was granted by Parliament, the AG can even refuse to cooperate with the ACC and squash (nolle prosequi) matters deemed "controversial to the State’s interest".

MATTERS CONTROVERSIAL TO STATE’s INTEREST

What are these matters? We will only know the day an APC BIG FISH is caught and dragged to court by the ACC. For now, lots of backroom dealings are going on and no Big Fish from the ruling APC sacred cows clique has yet been charged to Court. I am pre-supposing a scenario where a bunch of corrupt Cabinet Ministers engage in corrupt acts that they had first taken for Cabinet Approval and after having gotten this Cabinet Approval, proceeded to engage in shameful, corrupt Acts; If these corrupt Cabinet colleagues are investigated and charged to court by the ACC, can the Attorney General come to the conclusion that since there is a Cabinet Paper approving the corrupt deal, it must be a matter controversial to the interest of the State? If so, can he then arbitrarily nolle prosequi the matter? The answer, according to the un-amended Section 66(4)(c) of the National Constitution is CERTAINLY YES!

WHERE LIES THE INDEPENDENCE?

So, where lies the independence of the ACC as has been largely trumpeted by the APC regime of President Koroma? Nowhere in my opinion! The ACC is yet to achieve full independence to prosecute matters. Even to apply for ‘Trial by Judge alone’, the ACC is hamstrung and cannot proceed unless the ACC first gets a nod from the Attorney General. So, as the SLPP’s Hon. Matthew Nyuma rightly asks, ‘Where lies the independence of the ACC under this APC Koroma regime?’ It lies nowhere except in the imagination of a gullible public subjected to smoke and mirrors tactics of a Wheeler Dealer mindset.

ACC UNDER SLPP vs. ACC UNDER APC

They are both virtually the same soup in certain respects. The Government can legally place obstacles in the way of the Anti Corruption Commission should the ACC go near any of the Government’s sacred cows. Under the SLPP, the Government could refuse to charge the matter to court even if the ACC publicised and shouted at the top of its throat for the matter to be charged. Under the APC, the ACC can now charge matters to court but then the Government could simply have the Attorney General walk into court as soon as the ‘unwanted’ matter is charged and have it kicked out.

HAS ANY ACC MATTER BEEN COMPROMISED?

If an ACC suspect is willing to cut a deal with the ACC to have his matter stopped at the Courts and he repays back the money, and the AG is actively involved in such a deal, is that acceptable for the matter to be stopped in Court, the suspect freed and he repays back the alleged money corruptly acquired? YES! It happens all over the world. It is known as PLEA-BARGAINING. What is however *NOT* ethical is to be selective in who gets to cut a deal and who does not get to cut a deal. A deal is a deal is a deal. Hopefully, there should not be any more need to highlight this point.

WAY FORWARD

The Parliament should revisit the ACC Laws/Constitutional amendments and properly amend Sections 66(4)(b) and 66(4)(c) of the National Constitution to completely remove from the Attorney General, the powers to take over and/or discontinue criminal corruption matters in the High Court. Similarly, Parliament should amend the Criminal Procedure Act to give to the ACC Commissioner, all relevant powers borne by the Attorney-General, to make applications in Court such as under Section 144(2) of the CPA. Anything else will just be deliberately fooling the local populace and the international donor community and you cannot fool everyone all the time. The Sierra Leone Opposition might be sleeping for now but one day, they will surely wake up.

#END



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