“Football is a viable vehicle of communication that can be very useful in the fight against corruption.”, This was how the Deputy Director of Public Education and Outreach at the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), Patrick Sandi, commenced his statement in a customized meeting organized by the ACC for staff of the Sierra Leone Football Association(SLFA) at Kingtom in Freetown.

ACC

The purpose of the meeting was to engage staff of the Association on the nature, causes, effects and strategies in preventing corruption in their operations.

Further in his statement, Mr. Sandi hastened to state that the meeting was by no means a witch hunt, but a deliberate effort designed to strengthen SLFA in their resolve to thrash corruption in football. The Deputy Director noted that the drive is among many strategies used by the Commission to promote the prevention of corruption and the public will in the fight against graft. He informed the association that the Deputy Commissioner appreciated the strides made so far by SLFA in the fight against corruption, but encourages them to do more as corruption in the football constituency seems to be an emerging issue evident by the recent realities among former FIFA officials.

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He also reminded SLFA staff that by virtue of their institution’s relation to Government, all staff of the Association and even those who occasionally interface with the same are public officials, hence making them culpable to corruption offences. He deliberated on some of the major corruption offences and customized them to incidences occurring in football.

Speaking on behalf of the SLFA, Abdurahman Swaray, former SLFA General Secretary and currently CAF Education Secretary commended the ACC for targeting the SLFA in their outreach efforts. He was however quick to note that SLFA operates under the FIFA Code of Ethics which frowns at third party interference in football administration.

He however explained that the ACC, as the agency charged with the mandate to lead the fight against corruption in Sierra Leone, has the authority to investigate the Association in terms of misuse of public funds and abuse of office and position as public officers, but should be cautious when it comes to donor funds that include subventions paid by FIFA.

Mr. Swaray also explained that despite structural challenges in the football sector, the public perception about corruption in the SLFA is many times faulty and based on little information about the association. He intimated participants that SLFA only receives $ 250,000 allocation from FIFA per annum, which is in reality a pittance compared to the expenditure of the association. He noted that monies from Government to the Association were always well utilized in a structure that does not entertain corruption. Nevertheless, the SLFA veteran acknowledged that the Association still needs some training on corruption issues, which the ACC was there to provide.

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In his presentation on the fight against corruption in Sierra Leone, Senior Public Education Officer, Mohamed Ali Kamara stated that corruption in Sierra Leone is the common enemy that fathers other anti-developmental vices such as tribalism, favouritism and nepotism.

The Public Education guru recounted how corruption has historically damaged our socio-economic wellbeing as a nation. He therefore submitted that since corruption is standing on our prosperity like a big tree, all of us should join hands together with axes in our hands to cut that tree.

Admonishing SLFA on the prevention of corruption, Musa Kanteh, Policy and Ethics Analyst in the Systems and processes Review Department of the ACC, revealed that ambiguous administrative structures and unclear role specifications can create lacunas that breed corruption. That is why the ACC employs both the proactive and reactive approaches to MDAs when it comes to putting in place an anti-corruption friendly working environment in Government offices, Mr. Kanteh maintained. He also advised the SLFA to introduce service charters and that they should not hesitate to invite the ACC where necessary to help develop its operational systems.

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Earlier in the session, Chairman of the program, Joseph Kangaju of the ACC, reasoned that it is an uncontested fact that football was not free of corruption, otherwise, Sepp Platter and his cohorts would still be at the helm of affairs in FIFA. He also emphasized that because the ACC does not want a similar scenario in Sierra Leone that is why the Commission brings the corruption prevention messages to the SLFA.

Mr. Kangaju also guided a plenary session where comments and questions were entertained and appropriate answers provided. The meeting ended with showers of praises and appreciation to the ACC and SLFA staff from the Care Taker Coach of Leone Stars, Silas Tetteh.