How Politics and Familiarity Injection Affect Fraud Investigation

14 May 2008 at 05:58 | 957 views

By Dylan Sogie-Thomas of London United Kingdom.

My articles are focused on problems affecting Sierra Leone and I try to create recommendations to solve these problems. I was moved to write this article after reading articles covering the subjects below:
- President Ernest Koroma and team to declare their assets (When and how)
- Anti-Corruption to investigate Energy and power minister and other big fishes (When and how)
- Director of CID to investigate human right abuse and murder cases (When and how)
- Human right groups lobby death penalty (When and how)
- Human right groups write VP to recall 55 police officers (When and how)

Since all of the above news headlines are yet to be answered, I will move further from my previous article where I discussed the use of role models and declaring assets as first priority to change of attitude. I believe change is not mere words but action and I believe our President should have shown his commitment by declaring his assets before launching the campaign. Assets declaration and proper control will help prevent or deter government officials from committing fraud and illegal acts.

What is Fraud and Illegal Acts? Fraud involves organized schemes to conceal or deliberate misrepresentation which causes another person or the public to suffer damages, leading to monetary losses. The act of forgery, deliberate failure to record transactions will be considered as fraud.
Illegal Act is closed to the subject of fraud; misrepresenting donors to attract funding, cheating on NRA, smoking marijuana, driving without proper documentations will be classified as illegal acts.

In Sierra Leone laws against fraud and illegal acts are enforced by Anti-Corruption Commission, Criminal Investigation Department (special branch of the police) and Attorney General and minister of Justice Department. The Anti-corruption commission is headed by Commissioner Abdul Tejan-Cole(photo), CID by Musa Lappia and Attorney General Serry kamal. The above mentioned officials are appointed by the president and confirmed by parliament. He/She serves at the pleasure of the president and can be removed by the president at any time. These officials are expected to be independent but in Sierra Leone these officials are often prevented from carrying out their duties.

The Criminal Investigation Department is a branch of the Sierra Leone Police of which plain clothes detectives belong. The CID officers have special investigative powers and are involved in investigating major crimes such as rape, murder, serious assault and illegal offences.

The Anti-Corruption Commission was set up as a response to massive corruption in Sierra Leone. It is a body established by an act of parliament to lead the fight against corruption in Sierra Leone (It has more powers than CID). Both C.I.D and A.C.C. have legal powers for acting upon intelligence received and then building a case from analysis of the initial incident through to arrest and prosecution of any suspects. A.C.C. should not arrest to create publicity or where they have no case to prove. Anti-Corruption Commission officials are paid large or fat salaries so performance is not to create news headlines (A.C.C. arrests NRA officials with no follow up). The ACC at the moment has no power to prosecute, which means the Attorney General has authority over the Anti-Corruption Commission.

The Attorney General and minister of justice is a cabinet minister and have overall responsibility to supervise the Solicitor General and Director of Public Prosecution (DPP). He is the chief legal adviser to the government and responsible for all litigation or justice system (he decides what cases are prosecuted). This cabinet position has been held by individuals who went onto become Vice-President including Dr. Abdoulai Conteh and Solomon Berewa.

Since Anti-corruption Commission has no power to prosecute they can only be proactive, reactive and act as advisory capacity in the fight against corruption.
• Proactive in deterring fraud and corruption by dealing with complaints allegation in the press, in parliament and anonymous tips from employees.
• Reactive A.C.C. should move from proactive or deterrent state to a reactive state where ACC will investigate cases of suspected fraud so as to prove or disprove suspicions. If suspicions are proven accused perpetrators should be prosecuted without taking political affiliation into consideration.
• Advisory Capacity anti-Corruption Commission should also act as an advisory capacity to assist directors, ministers and other government officials in developing more effective controls to reduce the risk from fraud.

Anti-Corruption Commission should monitor the operation of government offices, ministers and ensure they are meeting public interest. In carrying out this functions A.C.C. should look into the following issues:
• looking at ethics of government officials
• Looking at money laundering issues by setting up a money laundering committee which will cover all fraudulent financial transactions, performing compliance audit and presenting legal evidence on financial matters that can be used in a court of law. This will require competent accounting professionals to search through public and private financial records in order to support their claims against an individual or group accused of corruption.

“Working for Anti-Corruption Commission and not living up to expectations is like playing with human blood or killing the nation by encouraging public mismanagement”. Political influence on Anti-Corruption Commission is a threat to the commissioner integrity, objectivity and independence in carrying out his duties.

Most of the cases he had planned to handle including the present Energy and Power Minister are cases against party loyalist. Law officers department are stocked with party loyalist, and in most instances when C.I.D. or A.C.C. has concluded their investigation and present their investigation papers to attorney General, the Attorney General will inject politics by claiming that there is no basis to lay criminal charges or make charges and allow the accused to disappear.

In Sierra Leone politicians and law makers are used to calling Directors of Public Prosecution, state Prosecutors, anti-corruption Commissioner, Inspector General of Police, and C.I.D. staffs to ask about a criminal investigation case or high profile corruption case involving a member of their family or member of their political party. Calling the above officers dealing with fraud or illegal investigation will be intimidation threat or act as a pressure to cancel enquiry.

If Sierra Leone should develop senior government officials should not make enquiries of prosecutors or investigators about pending matters so their motives and actions cannot be misunderstood.

The media should also be active and follow up all impact cases. Journalist and political writers should also be aware of fraud cases or illegal acts conducted by “white collar criminals” or human right groups using the media to gain credibility in order to attract donors. When human right groups seek credibility by creating publicity media practitioners should do a follow-up to see if these groups have achieved their objective. Media practitioners should request information from these human right groups as to how they intend to achieve some of their plans if the government refuses to reply to their request. The media should ensure that every civil group or human right groups, public officials fulfill their aims, objectives and responsibilities they are paid to achieve.

I am looking forward to receive any comments or feedback via email: