Ben Kaifala Under Fire, As…Samura Kamara Cautions ACC

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Presidential candidate for the All People’s congress (APC) in the 3018 election, Dr. Samura Mathew Wilson Kamara, has written a strongly-worded letter to the Anti-Corruption Commissioner, Francis Ben Kaifala (Esq.) dilating on what he thinks about public statements made by the ACC Commissioner against him (Dr. Samura).

Below is his letter reproduced verbatim.

“My attention has been drawn to the content of a press briefing by the Commissioner of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), Francis Ben Kaifala, held on Wednesday, 1st September, 2021, at the Cathedral Hall, Gloucester Street, Freetown. I have had cause to review the content of the said press briefing on Facebook in which the Commissioner informed the general public that he has concluded the investigation relating to the alleged mismanagement of funds meant for the renovation of the building housing the Sierra Leone Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York, which had been exposed by the Africanist Press, covering the period since the PAOPA SLPP Bio administration came into governance, 2018-2021. In the reports, the Africanist Press provided incontestable evidential details of the associated non-transparent funds transfers, including the names of persons directly involved and the respective dates and amounts transferred

“The half-hearted attempt by the Commissioner to give an update on the issue has not only left the public further confused, but has also created a fertile ground for conjectures and innuendos to be directed at the characters of hard working retired and in-service sons and daughters of Sierra Leone, whom he has named in his press briefing.

“It is now very clear, even to a moron in a hurry, that since taking over government in 2018, the PAOPA Bio Government has progressively and politically compromised the legal and operational status and independence of almost all our national public institutions meant to secure and underwrite the expected transparency and accountability in public policy management by any government, irrespective of the Political Party in power. Without doubt, institutions like the NCRA, NRA, NASSIT, SSL and above all, the ACC, which were all established through the collective efforts of the people of Sierra Leone supported by development partners with a view to improving public financial management and public service delivery after several years of structural inefficiencies.

“Today, several of our public institutions are characterised by visible state capture. Unfortunately, our ACC Commissioner demonstrated this when he openly stated in his Press briefing that he was instructed by His Excellency the President to investigate the situation of our Chancery building in NY. By extension, the Commissioner must have been given an Executive Brief that he is now acting on. This development is against the spirit of Section 9 of the Anti-Corruption Act 2008, which provides that: “The Commission shall act independently, impartially, fairly and in the public interest and the Commission shall not, in the performance of its functions, be subject to the direction or control of any person or authority”. Where, therefore, is the mandate of the ACC as an autonomous public institution? One would have expected that the Commissioner would publicly commend and reward the lead provided by the Africanist Press which was widely acclaimed by the people of Sierra Leone

“Reputable and patriotic “Whistle-blowers” are very hard to come by in public policy management and where they emerged, they deserve to be appropriately acknowledged and rewarded.

“I am personally committed to and would drive zero corruption at lengths. Sadly, however, the fight against corruption by this government, and by selective justice, has lately morphed into a political tool where its sail is directed by political winds, and not concrete evidence based. It is worth repeating that the allegations which were first made by the Africanist press with evidence attached were quite specific and pointed, that monies meant for the renovation of the building housing the Sierra Leone Permanent Mission to the UN in New York had been mismanaged during the past three and half years. It appears that in an attempt to provide cover for certain individuals in the present government, and to further confuse the intelligence of our people and muddy the issue, the ACC has cast a very wide net to draw in officials that worked for the erstwhile APC government. I will Counsel the Commissioner of the ACC, Francis Ben Kaifala, to refrain from acting in a manner which will make, even the dimmest of minds, to reach the inescapable conclusion that the ACC has lost its independence and impartiality under his watch and that his official actions are politically driven.

“At this juncture, I am tempted to take my unusual step by making public both my letter of invitation to the ACC to assist their investigation and my written statement thereon which I delivered to them during my interview.

“I continue to assure my fellow Sierra Leoneans that I remain committed in the fight against corruption now, like I have done in all my years in serving my country at home and abroad.

“I entreat all well-meaning Sierra Leoneans especially those believe in me as a formidable partner in bringing back Sierra Leone to remain steadfast, unperturbed and unshakeable in this our collective pursuit.

ICT Stakeholders Discuss Protection of Personal Data 

The Citizens Advocacy Network (CAN), in collaboration with ICT Users Association (ASUTIC), on 30th August 2021 convened a stakeholders engagement with the theme: “Sierra Leone: Facing the Challenge of Personal Data Protection; State of Affairs and Challenges in Respect of the Malabo Convention”.

Present at the meeting were representatives from the Human Rights Commission, the Directorate of Science, Technology and Innovation, the National Telecommunication Commission (NATCOM), Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ), Sierra Leone Bar Association, National Civil Registration Authority (NCRA), the Independent Media Commission (IMC), the Office of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice and the Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC).

According to the Executive Director of the Citizens Advocacy Network (CAN), Thomas Moore Conteh, Data protection is a fundamental right set out in Article 8 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, which states that everyone has the right to the protection of personal data concerning him or her.

Such data, he highlighted, must be processed fairly for specified purposes and on the basis of the consent of the person concerned, or some other legitimate basis laid down by law.

He intimated that his organization believes everyone has the right of access to data which has been collected concerning him or her, and the right to have it rectified adding how compliance with rules shall be subject to control by an independent authority.

Thomas Moore Conteh stated out the Citizens Advocacy Network also believes that every individual is entitled to his or her personal information protected, used in a fair and legal way, and made available to them when they ask for a copy.

He said that given the fact that the use of computers and level of sophistication with computing technologies is generally growing among the local population in the country, concerns are high about the issue of cyber-security and the protection of personal data in the country.

Thomas argued that if the information and/or data of Sierra Leoneans are not protected, they can be exploited with impunity for either commercial or even more serious nefarious ends.

He underscored how such a situation underlines the urgency for the protection of Personal Data in Sierra Leone, starting with the establishment of a legal framework in accordance with the Malabo Convention and other international treaties or conventions to which Sierra Leone is a signatory.

Thomas Moore added that Sierra Leone currently lacks a comprehensive legislation upholding citizens’ right to data protection/privacy furthering how the absence of a law that specifically addresses data protection/privacy has left a regulatory gap which undermines citizens’ rights and potentially opens the door to data exploitation by private and public entities.

The rights activist maintained that whereas the progress of the Cyber-security Act of 2020 is a welcome development by the current Government to regulate the cyberspace, the passing of a Data Protection Law would further strengthen those efforts immeasurably.

He said there are rumours of steps being taken by the Ministry of Information and Communications and the Directorate of Science, Technology and Innovation to work on a Data Protection Bill as well, that can sit alongside the recently passed Cyber Security Act.

He informed that Sierra Leone is a signatory to the 2010 Economic Community of West African States (‘ECOWAS’) Supplementary Act A/SA.1/01/10 on Personal Data Protection within ECOWAS.

“Interestingly, the ECOWAS Act requires each Member State to establish a Data Protection Authority that will be responsible for ensuring that Personal Data is processed in compliance with the provisions of the ECOWAS Act,” he outlined disclosing how Sierra Leone is yet to ratify the ECOWAS Act domestically and establish a Data Protection Authority.

He postulated that once the ECOWAS Act has been ratified and comes into force domestically any entity that intends to collect and process personal data of a private individual shall be required to make a formal request to the data protection authority.

The rights activist argues that in respect of the foregoing facts, it is critically worthy to note that Data protection and Cybersecurity Laws are very essential to safeguarding against data breaches.

He further underscored that the purpose of the stakeholder’s engagement is primarily to promote discussions among State actors, civil society and the fourth estate on the need for an enactment of a comprehensive legislation on Personal Data Protection in Sierra Leone.

In his contribution, the Director-General of the National Civil Registration Authority (NCRA), Mohamed Mubashir Massaquoi who was one of the participants stated that the institution is mandated in its law (Section 25) to provide certain information in relation to births, adoptions, deaths, marriages, nullities or divorces to several Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies for specific purposes.

He mentioned that the enactment of a data protection law will greatly determine how these data and information are shared with these MDAs which will protect the individuals to which the personal data and information relates.

“A data protection Law in Sierra Leone will greatly improve the management and security of personal data of individuals kept by the NCRA. It will set out the procedures to be followed in order for the NCRA and other institutions to collect data from individuals while also informing individuals of their right to consent to the sharing of their personal data or information for processing and transmission to other data processors,” he stated.

The DG further informed participants present that prior to the enactment of the NCR Act, Civil Registration functions and management of population data was governed by several statutes and laws including the Births and Deaths Registration Act 1983, the National Registration Act 2008, as well as a number of other legislations indirectly related to the Civil Registration System.

He added that the process of Civil Registration was therefore fragmented, truncated and uncoordinated thus dictating the risk of data loss, abuse and misuse.

The DG pointed out that the National Civil Registration Act of 2016 was enacted for the harmonization, consolidation and integration of all existing laws and regulations into a single coherent legal framework to regulate and implement Civil Registration services and ensure that Vital Statistics are compiled and disseminated with Identity Cards linked to the Civil Registration system.

The DG also informed participants at the meeting that in July this year, Cabinet approved the establishment of a Data Protection Policy, Act and Regulation for Sierra Leone and that there is a Working Group comprising of several MDAs including Ministry of Information and Communications, NATCOM, Right to Access information, Ministry of Internal Affairs, the NCRA, Expert  Legal Consultants and other Stakeholders who are currently looking at the drafts of these documents – Policy, Bill and Regulation.

He noted that the Working Group will present final drafts of the documents by the end of September, 2021, ‘which will be subject to review in the form of comprehensive and extensive nationwide consultations.’

The DG further informed participants that the NCRA has already received valuable inputs and support from its Development Partners into those drafts. He assured the Citizens Advocacy Network and other stakeholders present of a Data Protection Policy soonest.

“I will like to assure all present here today that at NCRA, we pride ourselves in protecting and safeguarding  the personal and sensitive data of citizens and non-citizens who are resident in Sierra Leone which are registered with the Authority  and that we are committed to ensuring that the Data Protection Law, Policy and Regulation is established and enacted before the end of the year with the support of other MDAs and Development Partners and I request that  you all present here especially the host of this engagement, Citizens Advocacy Network, support the process when the nationwide consultations shall commence,” the DG stated.

The DG concluded by encouraging Civil Society organizations (CSO’s), the Media and other interested groups to work with the Authority by supporting the process in various ways possible in order to make the effort a success.

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