By: Bernard Abass Kargbo – Public Education Officer, ACC
In 2013, Sierra Leone was infamously described as one of the most corrupt countries in the world by the Afro-Barometer Survey Report. The country’s governance system had been plagued with corruption for many years, with public officials and private individuals taking advantage of their positions to enrich themselves at the expense of the country’s development.
However, in the last five years, there have been significant gains in the fight against corruption. This write-up examines the gains made so far in the fight against corruption in Sierra Leone in five (5) years, under the committed and dedicated leadership of the President of the Republic of Sierra Leone, Brig. (Rtd.) Dr. Julius Maada Bio.
In 2018, upon his successful bid to gain the leadership of Sierra Leone, the President declared war on corruption and corrupt individual(s) when he committed to give the fight corruption with the much-needed attention it had lacked over the years.
Getting the right person to take up such a daunting task was the next call for His Excellency, but being a leader with foresight, and believing that this fight needs a person with the same passion and courage the President possesses, he entrusted the fight to a young and dynamic lawyer in the person of Francis Ben Kaifala Esq., to lead the campaign against the scourge.
THE ACC'S MANDATE
The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) is an Independent Agency with its mandate, including investigating and prosecuting cases of corruption, money laundering, and other economic crimes in Sierra Leone. It has been instrumental in the fight against corruption in the country, and in the last five years, there have been significant successes made in the war on corruption due to the ACC's efforts, and backed by the utmost support of the President of Sierra Leone.
Over the years, the Commission has been proactive in fulfilling its mandate. The ACC also has an active public education machinery to sensitize citizens on the need to shun corruption, and this it has done quite well by ensuring that the public is well engaged on happenings and the activities of the ACC.
ACHIEVEMENTS OF THE ACC
In the last five years, the Commission has prosecuted several high-profile corruption cases, resulting in over 90% conviction and jailing corrupt individuals. This has sent strong message to dissuade public officers with the view that, they will be held accountable for their actions.
In the last five years, the ACC like never before in the history of Sierra Leone and compared to other countries in the Sub-Region, has acted upon every Report that the Audit Service Sierra Leone has released. This has led to the recovery of Billions of (Old) Leones, through out-of-court settlement, the payment of Withholding Taxes and PAYE by institutions to NRA and prosecution and conviction.
The ACC in the five years, has also recovered significant amounts of stolen public funds. It has recovered over Thirty Eight Billion (Old) Leones from corrupt officials in the country. It also recovered Two (2) Land Cruiser Prado vehicles and a Hotel Building in Koidu City, Kono District.
Furthermore, the Commission intensified its efforts in the fight against money laundering. It continues to work in collaboration with other agencies such as the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) to monitor suspicious financial transactions that may be linked to money laundering.
STRENGTHENING LAWS AND INSTITUTIONS
The Sierra Leonean Government has made significant moves to strengthen its legal framework and institutions to support the fight against corruption. For instance, the Government enacted several laws to strengthen the ACC's investigative and prosecutorial powers by amending the Anti-Corruption Act of 2008 in 2019. Within the legal framework also, the ACC now has a Special Anti-Corruption Division within the High Court of Sierra Leone to speedily try corruption matters before the Court, with specialized and dedicated Judges and a modern Registry.
The Government has also strengthened the country's Judiciary to ensure that corrupt officials are brought to justice with specific punishment for each crime committed within the Act. This provision has made fines more significant and painful to bear, thus making corruption a high risk and very low-return venture. In that regard, the Judiciary has been equipped with modern facilities to help expedite corruption cases.
PUBLIC ACCOUNTABILITY AND TRANSPARENCY
The Government of Sierra Leone has prioritized public accountability and transparency in its operations. The ACC has an active website to enhance the transparency of its operations.
The Government website as well provides citizens with information on the country's budgets and expenditures, procurement processes, and other Government operations.
The Government has also made progress in implementing an open data policy that makes data available to the public and enables the public to hold Government officials accountable for their actions.
All these anti-corruption measures in the last five years have positively impacted the fight against corruption.
The gains made in the fight against corruption in Sierra Leone in the last five years have been quite remarkable.
The Government has shown strong commitment to fighting corruption by empowering institutions such as the ACC. The ACC has played a critical role in prosecuting corrupt individuals and recovering stolen funds.
The Government has also prioritized public accountability and transparency in its operations.
Though there are challenges, but if these gains made in the last five years are sustained, Sierra Leone will continue to be on the right trajectory of becoming a prosperous and corrupt-free country.
©️ Public Relations Unit, ACC