The new Anti- Corruption Bill that will give the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) the powers to prosecute offenders was yesterday discussed at the pre-legislative committee in Parliament.
The ACC Commissioner Abdul Tejan Cole gave a summary presentation of the Bill to Members of Parliament and civil society who were present at committee Room No1, parliament.
This new ACC Bill will be replacing the 2000 ACC Bill. Mr Tejan Cole explained that laws to him as he saw them were branches on a tree which needed changes as it goes along with time. He stated that the ACC Act 2000 was subjected to many criticisms and a number of problems arose as a result of the Act. So it is with this in mind that this new Bill is being presented to parliament for consideration” he said.
Explaining the new changes and provisions contained in the new Bill, he highlighted that the primary objective of the Bill was to ensure that the laws of the country are brought in line with the United Nations conventions against corruption which Sierra Leone has signed and ratified and also the African Union Convention on preventing and combating corruption to which Sierra Leone is also a signatory.
The Bill he went on was to also ensure that the weaknesses and criticisms against the old ACC Act are addressed and brought in line with the National Anti-corruption strategy.
One of the most foundational changes of the Bill was in Part one which deals with the establishment of the commission. “If you look at the 2000 Act basically in section 2 (2) says that the commission shall comprise of the commissioner and the deputy commissioner. As far as the law is concerned there are only two people at the ACC that the 2000 Act recognizes. As it is at present the absence of the deputy at the ACC, the only person recognized is myself, the commissioner” he stated.
The new Bill proposes that rather than placing so much powers in the hands of the commissioner and deputy it should be placed in the hands of the Commission and the Directors. It thus makes qualification for the post of the commissioner who should be a legal practitioner having not less than 10 years practice with proven managerial experience and conspicuous probity in his profession and the deputy also to be of proven knowledge, ability and experience of at least 10 years in Accounting, Banking, Financial services and other relevant professions also a person of conspicuous probity.
The objective of the commission has also been broadened to look at prevention of corrupt practices rather than investigation and prosecution to broaden it further to education.
Several new offences have been created as against the current Act which the ACC Commissioner referred to as grossly inadequate as nine offences are created under the new Act which will be related to conflict of interest, abuse of office and also the target of the public sector to be prosecuted.
The most contentious aspect of the Bill which gives powers to the ACC to prosecute is entirely new. “For this to be valid parliament needs to enact the amended constitution Act 2008 of Sierra Leone. This power of prosecution is completely new and basically it gives the ACC the power to prosecute on its own without going to the Attorney General” Mr Cole said.
The ACC though has a check against them from prosecuting cases he pointed out stating “We also believe that to every power that is given to the ACC there should be substantial check to it. In as much as we are given the power for us to institute prosecution without going through the Attorney General’s office, the power for the Attorney General to nullify any case that we take to the court still remains with the Attorney General” he maintained.
Contributions were made by members of parliament and the civil society. After this pre- legislative meeting, the bill will be properly drafted and be ready to be taken to parliament by the Attorney General and Minister of Justice to be debated.
By Ishmael Bayoh