The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) yesterday issued a public notice for all newly appointed/elected and former Public Officers requiring them to declare their income, assets and liabilities to the Commission when taking office and when exiting office according to Section 119 (1) of the Anti-Corruption Act 2008 as repealed and replaced by Section 9 (a) of the Ant-Corruption (Amendment) Act, 2019.
This Section emphasized that any person shall “…within three months of becoming a public officer, deposit with the Commission a declaration of his income, assets and liabilities and thereafter in every two years that he is public officer, but not later than 31st March of that second year, deposit further declaration of his income, assets and liabilities and also while leaving office.”
We believe the sole object of requiring newly appointed/elected and erstwhile public officers to declare their income, assets and liabilities when taking office and when exiting office is to ensure honesty and strong moral principles in public offices which had been eroded prior to the establishment of the anti-graft agency.
The mismanagement of our natural resources, misappropriation of public funds and the blatant corrupt practices in public offices had over the decades been very characteristic of the day-to-day administration of the State. Because of dishonesty and low moral principles, unscrupulous public officers, especially vote controllers, had enriched themselves with taxpayers money and donor funds meant for development programmes, thereby leaving the country in a wretched economic situation.
Though the political will is there to fight corruption in public offices as well as in the private sector, unscrupulous public officers have still not refrained from their corrupt practices as clearly evident in corruption offences being prosecuted in court by the ACC. It is against this backdrop that the anti-graft agency must compel all newly appointed/elected and former Public Officers to declare their income, assets and liabilities as stipulated by the Anti-Corruption (Amendment) Act, 2019. They should know that it is an offence punishable by fine or imprisonment or both if they fail to comply with the Act.
This is where the ACC should not hesitate to punish defaulters no matter whose ox is gored.
It therefore stands to reason that the newly appointed/elected public officers who are supposed to serve their people and country diligently should make it a point of honour to declare their income, assets and liabilities as stipulated by law.
By so doing, they have already started demonstrating their honesty and moral rectitude to Sierra Leoneans who lack confidence and trust in public officers because of their involvement in massive corruption which is largely responsible for our abject penury as a nation.
It is therefore incumbent upon all our newly appointed/elected public officers, most of whom are young people, to change the negative perception Sierra Leoneans have about public officers being corrupt people. They should always have in mind that the oath of office they took to serve their people and country with due diligence should be strictly honoured or adhered to for the good of Sierra Leone and her citizenry.
For former public officers, though many could be sad and heart-broken for losing their mouth-watering appointments, they should not shrug aside their obligation to declare their income, assets and liabilities for ACC to determine whether or not they honestly acquired them. They should be courageous to give accounts of their stewardship before they will finally take leave of public offices and live their private lives as responsible citizens of this country..