Gbalamuya customs staff urged to protect public revenue
The Regional Manager of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) in the North-West Region, Al-Hassan Sesay has told public officers at the Gbalamuya Customs post at the Sierra Leone/ Guinea border that government revenue must be protected and accounted for as stated by law.
He made this statement during a customized meeting with the management and staff of the National Revenue Authority, Immigration, Police personnel and other service delivery institutions attached at the Gbalamuya border crossing point. The engagement which was part of the Commission's public education drive, was convened as a response to the numerous concerns from members of the public relating to various forms of corrupt practices at the post and to also warn all public officers to desist from such practices.
Speaking at the meeting, the Regional Manager, Al-Hassan Sesay said the Gbalamuya border customs post is a major revenue basket for government and has a direct link to the national development agenda and for the state to finance investment in human capital, infrastructure and the provision of social services to its citizens. He noted that all those working at the post irrespective of whether they are permanent, casual or volunteer staff are covered by the ACC laws.
Commenting on the general work of the commission, Mr. Sesay provided a succinct explanation of the approaches employed by the ACC in the fight against corruption and registered ACC’s commitment to taking anti-corruption messages to local communities. He went on to state that failure of public officers to protect revenue and the shady means of its collection amounts to corruption and will be heavily resisted by the ACC. Explaining key related offences to public officers during the meeting, the ACC Regional head made a comprehensible presentation of offences but not limited to protection of public revenue, offering, soliciting and accepting advantage, misappropriation of public funds and property, abuse of office and position and influencing a public officer.
Commenting on the recently published corruption perception survey report by Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law, Mr. Sesay said the report examines about the fight against corruption, the institutions involved and the delivery of public services. The report, he added, also indicated that poverty, greed, lack of integrity and low salaries as major causes of corruption. He used the occassion to warn them to be mindful of the anti-corruption laws and their interaction with the public when performing their duties. He also informed them that with the 2019 amendment Act of the ACC, the commission have been empowered to cancel all contract deemed not to be in the interest of the public or a section thereof, strengthened and narrowed the asset declaration regime, trial in absentia, restitution, examination malpractice as a punishable offence and jail terms and fines increased to five years and fifty million Leone respectively.
In her welcome remarks, the Deputy Head of Immigration Juliana B. Bendu welcomed the ACC team and thanked them for taking a laudable initiative to engage and sensitize them on various matters of corruption adding that the sensitization meeting will help and guide their operations and will enhance collaboration. The Manager of the National Revenue Authority Joseph Rogers also shared similar sentiments of appreciation to the ACC team for educating them on key corruption issues. He disclosed that the NRA now has an automated system for revenue collection and prohibits the exchange or collection of cash from anyone. He encouraged all public officers to conform to best practice and desist from involving in corrupt practices and also reiterated on the place and function of the law on the protection of public funds and the issue of double dipping as a corruption offence.
Public Education Officer Mohamed Thullah who spoke on ethics in the workplace said public bodies are created and regulated by law with defined roles and responsibilities that are germane to responsibilities and duties of public officer occupying those positions. He stated that ethics as a key component of integrity regulates the conduct, attitude and behavior of public officers to be professional in the line of duty and encouraged them to maintain high ethical standards in their daily operations and senior management to put internal control measure that will address tax evasion, maintain equitable tax system and enforce compliance to revenue collection as prescribed by law. He noted that the ACC was also concerned about absenteeism, attendance, double dipping and reminded them of the presence of the elite scorpion squad in the region. He highlighted various methods of reporting corruption to ACC and underscored the central role reporting corruption occupies in combatting same.