By: Sylvanus Blake, Asst. PRO, ACC
When on Monday 10th October 2021, the Commissioner of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), Francis Ben Kaifala Esq., presented the 2020 Annual Report of the Commission to His Excellency, Brigadier Rtd. Dr. Julius Maada Wonnie Bio, his words were short, precise and convincing. After thanking the President for his unwavering support to the Commission, he said “…even with COVID-19, the ACC continued to do its work and delivered remarkable progress at all levels in the campaign against corruption for the people of Sierra Leone.”
This Report gave stewardship of a year characterized by the debilitating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the nations of the world that brought everything nearly to a standstill. Sierra Leone, a resilient country, with an ever poised and resolute ACC, had been able to achieve key milestones as it continued to reverse adverse trends in the control of corruption. An attempt to decipher and juxtapose the 2020 report with 2019 can in no small way help to showcase the progress made so far.
In the non-conviction based asset recovery model, the Commissioner to enters into out-of-court agreements with suspects, for the recovery of the amount involved plus a not less than 10% interest, as provided for in Section 89 of the Anti-Corruption Act 2008 as amended in 2019. This strategy, which goes after the assets and wealth of perpetrators of corruption, seeks to restitute the State. It is a venom which does not only counterbalance the corrupt but also sends the strongest dissuasion to the public against corruption. The only incentive for corruption, if ever, is the wealth. Going after it attacks that very incentive fiercely. At this frontier alone, the ACC, in 2020, recovered a whopping Le:8,008,330,871 from suspects. This does not include the Le: 2,000,000,000, unutilized Universities’ application forms recovered from colleges and universities, the Le:300,000,000 debt recovery for the Sierra Leone Cable Network (SALCAB) and the Le: 540,000,000 recovered for Sierra Leone Road Safety Authority (SLRSA) for licenses payment. This was a stunner.
Another noteworthy statistics in the report has to do with the Asset Declaration process. The object of the regime as per Section 119 of the 2008 Anti-Corruption Act as amended in 2019 is to promote integrity in public life. The 2019 amendment of Section 122 streamlined the regime. It changed the annual declaration to biannual, and limited the number of public officers who should declare. The object clearly, is to make the regime handy to manage by the ACC and provide stringent and punitive administrative actions against defaulters. In 2020, 25,913 asset declaration forms were submitted to the ACC as against 17,212 in 2019, thereby recording a 48% increase in the rate of declaration.
Incredible progress was made in the Investigations and Prosecutions with a record number of convictions. This cannot be disconnected from the strategic establishment of the novel Special Anti-Corruption Division within the High Court that has resulted in unprecedented high rate of trials and conclusions of same in record time. A total of 308 cases were brought forward from 2019 and 164 news cases assigned in 2020 for investigations, giving a sum total of 472 cases. 100 cases were successfully investigated by the Commission in 2020; out of which, 32 were submitted to the Prosecution Department for prosecutorial opinions, 46 recommended for closure, 10 closed after recovery through the non-conviction based asset recovery approach, 5 referred to MDAs for internal redress and 2 Kept in View (KIV). For me, this segment of the 2020 Annual Report epitomizes the staunchness of the ACC to being accountable to the people of Sierra Leone in consonance with Sections 5 (2) and 19 of the Anti-Corruption Act 2008 as amended.
The Corruption Prevention Department of the ACC, in addition to the recovery of Le: 2,840,000,000 on behalf of State institutions as stated earlier, held successful systems reviews at the Ministry of Social Welfare, the Water Sector (Guma Valley, SALWACO and the Water Regulatory Commission) and SALCAB. Comprehensive monitoring of MDAs to ensure compliance with the implementation of corruption prevention recommendations was also carried out at; the Ministries of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Works, Sierra Leone Correctional Services, Sierra Leone Road Safety Authority. Similar monitoring activities on the management of COVID-19 funds, fleet and fuel management at the Ministries of Agriculture and Health, the implementation of the Free Quality Education programme were also conducted by the Commission. The ACC also commenced the development of the maiden and model Compliance Sanctions Hand Book that is now in operation.
Progress was also made in the monitoring of the implementation of the recommendations contained in the 2019-2023 National Anti-Corruption Strategy (NACS), by the Steering Committee. A total of 74 MDAs and all the local councils were monitored with 84% compliant rate recorded.
The Report Centre of the ACC in 2020 received and processed 424 complaints from the public. Of these, 171 were referred to the Intelligence and Investigations Department of the ACC. 27 reports were referred to the Corruption Prevention Department while 225 reports were referred to various MDAs.
These colossal and historic accomplishments were validated by the comfortable rankings and ratings recorded in credible and respected international assessments. In 2020, the MCC scorecard on the ‘Control of Corruption’ indicator, Sierra Leone scored an excellent 81%. In the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index (TI-CPI) Sierra Leone stands chivalrously at 117 out of 180 nations with a score of 33, which is above the Sub-Saharan average. In 2017, Sierra Leone stood at a shivering 130. In the National Corruption Perception Survey Report published in 2020 by the Public Financial Management Consortium led by the Center for Accountability and Rule of Law (CARL), the ACC had 93% approval rating among the survey’s respondents,
The above explains vividly and irrefutably that perceptible, commendable and historic milestones were achieved by the ACC and Sierra Leone in what used to be an insurmountable war against corruption. The consistent and persistent gains in the fight against corruption at home which is validated by international endorsements and tributes for Sierra Leone, under the dynamic leadership of the celebrated and praiseworthy Czar, Francis Ben Kaifala Esq., has calmed the tide and quieted the storm that was raging against Sierra Leoneans called corruption-public and national enemy number one.