By: David Yusuf Kabia, Public Relations Assistant, ACC
While informants and whistleblowers may all be providing vital information helping the fight against corruption, their slight but unnecessary distinction must be made clear. In an article presented by Transparency International titled “Whistle Blowers Rewards Programmes”, Brown et al (2014) defined whistleblowers as, “members of the organisation itself who allege that the organisation is involved in wrongdoing” and informants or bell ringers as “individuals external to the organisation who report perceived wrongdoing on the part of the organization”. This patriotic and development-oriented nature of exposing graft is a fast growing tool in the fight against corruption which has it basis in Article 33 of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) which states that “Each State Party shall consider incorporating into its domestic legal system appropriate measures to provide protection against any unjustified treatment for any person who reports in good faith and on reasonable grounds to the competent authorities any facts concerning offences established in accordance with this Convention.”. This provision in the UNCAC is in tandem with Sections 81 and 82 of the Anti-Corruption Act 2008 (as amended in 2019) which provides for the protection of informants and whistleblowers who provide relevant information leading to the conviction of corrupt persons.
The Significance of the Reward Scheme
Stopping at nothing by using all means necessary to fishing out graft in accordance with Section 7 (1) (a) of the ACA which states that “The objects for which the Commission is established are- (a) to take all steps as may be necessary for the prevention, eradication or suppression of corruption and corrupt practices” explains the ACC successful drive of fighting corruption especially within the last four years during the tenure of Commissioner Francis Ben Kaifala. The re-introduction of the reward scheme for reporting graft by the ACC therefore remains one of many ways corruption can be smoked out from it caves. The extent of ravaging destruction being caused by corruption in Sierra Leone, which has deeply depleted our resources and preventing the required growth needed to catapult our nation can be stopped when citizens own the fight against corruption. This ownership extends to reporting corruption. Public resources on health, infrastructure, education and more are always at risk of misuse by unscrupulous unpatriotic corrupt persons who put self above country. However, these acts of unpatriotism never go unnoticed by some members of the public yet, reporting them is thwarted. To see corruption and let it slides without reporting same to the relevant institutions is as well corruption in itself because it finds solace in the silence of those who ought to have exposed it. But when corruption is given no residence in our public inhabitation by honestly and constantly reporting its occurrence, society then becomes safer and well provided for to enable its growth. Therefore, withholding information on corruption can only continue to help the corrupt get covered by our silence, which in turn lowers our chances of better living conditions by depriving us of the resources due us for our growth.
Risk and Disadvantages
Disclosing information on corruption especially in Africa and Sierra Leone to be specific has been under attack by customary beliefs and the fear of being pointed out as being responsible for conviction of persons. It is not within the practices of our traditions in Sierra Leone to tell on others. In our early school lives, we sometimes prefer to have an entire class flogged instead of exposing a particular offender. This culture is in order to avoid social clashes. However, in the fight against corruption, the protection of whistleblowers and informants is already guaranteed for example in Sections 81 of the ACA 2008 (as amended) which assures of the protection of identity of whistleblowers and informants when they provide information.
While the act of disclosing information on corruption remains highly significant in the fight against corruption, it cannot be denied that it can also be used by others to falsely report allegations of corruption in order to taint the reputation of some members of society.
Therefore, the ACC reward scheme for reporting corruption is a tool the Commission has adopted in expanding and extending its warring weapons in fighting corruption, which has eaten and continues to eat more than half of the national cake meant to benefit the citizenry.
This laudable move by the ACC should be appreciated and fully complied with in the spirit of nationalism should the well-developed Sierra Leone we envisage is to be achieved.