By: Martina George, Communications Officer, ACC
Sierra Leone has struggled with the menace of corruption for many years. Corruption has taken a toll on the nation and hampered her development. However, the past five years have seen notable progress in the fight against corruption. Thanks to the relentless efforts of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) under the leadership of Francis Ben Kaifala Esq.
In 2018, Sierra Leone was ranked 129 out of 180 countries in the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index, indicating that the nation had a substantial corruption problem. However, Francis Ben Kaifala vowed to put an end to this. Since his appointment as ACC boss in 2018, the country moved from its previously failing positions to massive and higher height which has been maintained so far. From a failing 49 percent in 2017, 2018 saw the country recording a stunning 71 percent, 79 percent in 2019, 81 percent in 2020, 83 percent in 2021 and 79 percent in 2022 in the Millennium Challenge Cooperation (MCC) scorecard. The Transparency International Corruption Perception Index corroborated the gains made in the fight against corruption in the past five years. Sierra Leone has for a third consecutive time made multiple jumps- from 130 in 2017, moving 20 places upwards to 110 in 2022.
Francis Ben Kaifala has also ensured the ACC remains independent of political influence and interference. He has stressed the importance of due process, transparency and accountability in the fight against corruption. Furthermore, he has established partnership with international organizations and other stakeholders to enhance the Commission’s capacity to fight corruption.
One of Francis Ben Kaifala’s most significant achievements was strengthening of the national asset declaration system, which requires public officials to declare their, income, assets and liabilities at the start and end of their tenure in office, as well as every two years (bi-annual) after their first declaration. In 2019, the 2008 Anti-Corruption Act was amended, which among other things further strengthened the asset declaration regime. This asset declaration process was geared towards enhancing integrity in public life, track illicit wealth amassed by public officials and serves as a critical tool in the fight against corruption.
The amendment of the 2008 Anti-Corruption Act in 2019 was a positive move to strengthen the powers of the Commission and make corruption an expensive enterprise. The 2019 Amendment Act increased fines for key corruption offences from a minimum of Thirty Million to Fifty Million Leones (old notes) and jail term from a minimum three years to five years. The amendment brought in place restitution, that is paying back monies misappropriated, 10% interest on recovery, trial in absentia and criminalizes examination malpractice, among others. This amendment further strengthened the fight against corruption with the establishment of a Special Division at the high court for the trial of corruption cases in a bid to ensure speedy trial.
The establishment of the Special Anti-Corruption Division within the High Court of Sierra Leone has been a landmark gain which accounts for the many successes recorded in the fight against corruption. The expeditious trial of cases has addressed the snail-paced nature at which ACC matters previously queued in court with other matters.
Under Francis Ben Kaifala’s leadership, the ACC has successfully prosecuted several high-profile corruption cases in Sierra Leone. This approach has sent a strong message that corruption will not be tolerated and has served as a deterrent to potential offenders. For example, in 2019, the ACC secured conviction against the former Deputy Minister of Works, Housing and Infrastructure, and five other officials for corruption-related offences.
Also, Commissioner Francis Ben Kaifala used non-conviction asset based recovery as a key tool in the fight against corruption, wherein stolen funds and public assets that had been corruptly acquired or diverted were recovered by the ACC. Within his five years of stewardship, over Forty Billion (Old) Leones was recovered from corrupt public officials by the ACC.
In conclusion, the past five years of Francis Ben Kaifala’s leadership at the ACC in Sierra Leone have been marked by tangible progress in the fight against corruption. The Commission’s efforts have led to a decline in corruption levels in the country, attracting global attention and commendation. With continued support from the public, the ACC can further consolidate its successes to build a more economically stable and prosperous Sierra Leone.