In its determination to address public concerns relating to corrupt practices in schools, the Northern Regional Office of the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC), on Monday, March 12 this year, engaged staff of the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MEST), Principals and Head Teachers in Magburaka,in the Kholifa Rowalla Chiefdom, Tonkolili District, North of the country.
The engagement was an interactive meeting at the Teachers’ Resource Centre in Magburaka to map out the way forward in a bid to enhance compliance to the education policy and transparency and accountability in the running of schools.
In his welcome address, the Deputy Director of Schools, Tonkolili District, Mr. Umarr Alusine Bah, expressed appreciation to ACC for bringing the Commission closer to them. He noted that such engagements will go a long way to minimize corruption in the schools. He praised the Commission for according them the opportunity to learn more about the Commission and what they should not do.
Explaining the rationale of the meeting, the ACC’s District Coordinator for Tonkolili, Mr. Abdulai Saccoh, said they intended to provide guidance to the MEST staff and heads of schools so that they would not come in conflict with the law. He also reminded them of their roles, responsibilities and how corrupt practices in their operations can impact negatively on the education sector. He noted that the engagement was part of the Commission’s public education and preventive approach in the fight against corruption. He further stated that the fight against corruption is a national concern which he said they alone cannot fight. He added that one of the core values of the Commission is coalition building and partnership, urging them to partner with the Commission in order to eradicate corruption in the education sector.
He explained the various methods of making reports to the Commission and the protection mechanisms for informers, emphasizing the Commission’s core value of confidentiality and professionalism and stressed that if the fight against corruption is to succeed, they must be ready to report corruption. He said the Commission gives a reward of 10% to informers whose information leads to the retrieval of money.
Giving an overview of the Commission, the Public Education Officer, Mr. Al-Hassan Sesay, emphasized that the ACC is not witch hunting anybody or institution but intervening wherever there are possible loopholes for corrupt practices.
He lamented that one of the main factors inhibiting the provision and delivery of effective services in the schools is the sustained presence of corruption. The Public Education Officer reminded the gathering that they have very crucial roles to play if the standard of education in Sierra Leone is to improve.
He noted that the ACC is very determined to regain the former status of the country’s educational sector which is why they making meaningful interventions in schools. He stated that they value collaboration, explaining that the ACC has constructed an ‘Integrity BOAT’ that will ferry Sierra Leone from the shores of underdevelopment to that of development. He stated that in order to get on board the BOAT, they have to forgo their corrupt Behaviors, Opinions, Attitudes and Thoughts, urging them to not only board the ‘Integrity BOAT,’ but to also resist, reject and report corruption for the betterment of Sierra Leone. He also explained to them the public education, prevention and confrontational approaches used by the Commission in leading the fight against corruption in the country.
Explaining the offences and penalties as enshrined in the Anti Corruption Act, 2008, ACC’s Regional Manager, North, Mr. Patrick Sandi, used the occasion to extend thanks and appreciation on behalf of the Commissioner and Commission to all present for supporting the work of the Commission. He noted that the education sector is very strategic in the development of Sierra Leone, which explains why it was important they came together to map out the way forward. He urged them to be mindful of the fact that in as much as the ACC educates and prevents, it also punishes corrupt individuals.
He said the schools have been plagued with extra charges and corrupt practices such as, misappropriation of the girl child funds, school fees subsidies, examination malpractices, illegal admission and promotions, falsification of examination results, payment for collection of report cards and BECE/WASSE results among many others.
He said some of the offences in the 2008 Act that have bearing with school authorities like influencing a public officer, misappropriation of donor or public funds or property, soliciting and accepting advantage, possession of unexplained wealth, receiving gifts for corrupt purposes are very serious offences.
He maintained that the punishment for any of the offences is a fine of not less than thirty million Leones or imprisonment for a term not less than three years or both fine and prison term.
Representing the Chairman, Conference of Principals, Mr. Francis M. Saccoh, expressed happiness to the ACC for enabling them to understand the offences. He admitted that such a face to face dialogue is very important as constant guidance and monitoring are vital to the operations of their institutions.
On behalf of his colleague Teachers, the Chairman, Head Teachers Council, Mr. Idriss M. Sankoh, expressed commitment in joining the ACC in the fight against corruption. He promised to relay all what has been in the meeting to his colleagues who he said will abide by the warnings.
In his statement, the Vice President of Sierra Leone Teachers Union (SLTU), Northern Region, Mr. Rashid Koroma, said “The ACC has come to save us if only we accept and comply. Let us see it as our responsibility to move Sierra Leone forward.”
He pledged SLTU’s commitment in supporting the ACC and advised his colleague teachers to pay heed to the admonishments
Delivering the vote of thanks, Ms. Zainab Y. Koroma, Head Teacher, Seventh Day Adventist Primary School, Magburaka, admitted that the meeting is timely and good for all. On behalf of all her colleagues, she assured the ACC that they would put into practice all what they have heard and learnt.