STATEMENT BY HIS LORDSHIP CHIEF JUSTICE OF THE REPUBLIC OF SIERRA LEONE AT THE OFFICIAL COMMISSIONING OF THE ANTI CORRUPTION COMMISSION HEADQUARTERS BUILDING TOWER HILL FREETOWN ON THE MONDAY 5TH JUNE 2023
Mr Chairman, His Excellency the President of the Republic of Sierra Leone, Dr Julius Maada Bio, Attorney-General & Minister of Justice, other Ministers here present, Anti-Corruption Commissioner, Your Excellency British High Commissioner, Madam President, Sierra Leone Bar Association, Colleagues at the Bar, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, all protocols observed.
I feel highly gratified to join the chairman and members of the Anti-Corruption Commission at this Auspicious, first of its Kind Occasion of Your Commissioning of the Anti- Corruption Headquarters Building – Integrity House. While this may have the all-too-familiar normal clout of opening ceremonies, it is all the more significant because it is money well spent which was done not by international donors’ money but through the hard earned coffers of Government – Sierra Leone Money.
On behalf of myself and members of the Judiciary words would be short to explain how delightful we are that the Anti-Corruption Commission has thought it fit to not only invite us to the ceremony but allow us participate by making a statement.
This though is not the least surprising as I do recall that on assuming office this was one of aspirations evinced by you on your end while I on the other hand flagged the need for a specialised court and independent registry to handle ACC cases. While we wanted these projects ‘badly’ and had hoped that the international donors would readily support and obliged us funding, this was not to be, as while they were ready to provide equipment for the courts and technical assistance, our external partners and donors were in no way ready to contribute to funding for any infrastructure which they cajoled us to do ourselves. Consequently, I had to go solo in the setting up of the infrastructure for the Anti-Corruption Division (ACD) and the eventual commissioning of Courts Nos. 5 and 6 and independent registry which were purpose built and commissioned on the 9th Of December 2019 while you too have now come up with this building singlehandedly with Government Spending . Thus as I we stand here today Sierra Leone can boast of a specialised court and independent registry to deal with anti-corruption cases while at the same time speak of a dedicated building- Integrity House to handle and process all our Anti-Corruption Cases without the unfortunate position of renting out premises and its inconvenience posed. This is a monumental achievement. Kudus to both the ACC AND GOVERNMENT of Sierra Leone
Today I celebrate the fact that we can converge and commission an edifice of this nature which speaks volumes about our commitment to fighting corruption which has been a menace to this country’s development effort. Heartiest congratulations to the Anti-Corruption Commissioner and team for embarking on this needful project. Especial thanks also the Government in placing the building of this Integrity House as a priority well accomplished. The statement you have made today is not only history in the annals of the Commission but colossal in Government’s commitment and posture in fighting corruption and should go a long way to making those who steal government coffers stop stealing government coffers or else be found out and dealt with according to law which is no respecter of persons.
Under Constitutional Instrument No 4 of 2019 the ACD was set up as a Specialised Division of the High Court with the rationale that cases would be conducted and concluded in an effective efficient expeditious and transparent manner
From the inception of the Division to date, 48 cases have been dealt with including those currently ongoing with 26 completed with no less than 28 persons convicted and 36 persons discharged and a sum of over 4billion Leones recovered from court fines and convictions. This is apart from the billions regained by the ACC when not prosecuting the offenders.
In October 2022 the Judiciary of Sierra Leone in collaboration with the British High Commission launched Practice Directions for ACC cases and Sentencing Guidelines for the ACC Division – both instruments are set to guide lawyers and judges as to the modus operandi of the ACC court. Thus under the sentencing guidelines the aim is to
a) Punish and/or denounce all unlawful acts or conduct
b) Reduce the commission of anti-corruption offences by deterring persons to commit such unlawful acts
c) Protect the public and public funds
d) Assist in the rehabilitating and re-integration of an offender into society
e) Provide reparation for harm done to the state and the public
f) Promote and provoke a sense of remorse and responsibility by the accused acknowledging the harm done to the state and the public
The Judiciary and the ACC under this current leadership of the ACC have always had a close working relationship and would continue to do so even as both institutions continue to maintain their independence. We share the same vision of meting out justice and bringing culprits to book and would do all in our individual and distinctive powers to ensure that this is done. Gone are the days when government Officials could abuse their office and misappropriate government funds and go scot-free. We would collectively and individually find you and bring you to book.
As I end, I wish the Anti-Corruption Commission greater success in its strides to stamp out corruption and hope and pray that this new building in several ways would help facilitate that.
Long may the cordial relationship between these two (2) vital Institutions continue.
God bless us all