By: Alex A. Bah, Public Relations Assistant, ACC
The account of Sierra Leone’s conspicuous success and steady unprecedented progress in its war against graft for the last six years has propelled a mark of hope and satisfaction that better is indeed and truly possible. Once wrecked in a senseless civil conflict for which the establishment of an institution of this nature was recommended in the aftermath of an independent inquiry, and with more than a decade of the existence of the institution, corruption remained a challenge marring various societal facets, and continued to pulverize the country and citizens into utter misery.
This was in spite of the enormous powers of the Anti-Corruption Act, 2008 as amended, that saw the repeal and replacement of the first Act of 2000 that established the Commission. The prevalence of the scourge and the nonchalant manner it was treated saw the country for years at rock-bottom in almost every local and international indexes and assessments.
The Transparency International Survey carried out across 95 countries in 2013 infamously ranked Sierra Leone as the most corrupt nation on earth. This embarrassing performance painted a worrying picture for a country having clasped in 11 years civil war mainly attributed to corruption.
Similar indexes, such as the Millennium Challenge Corporation Scorecard, which is a US Government blueprint that assesses countries on multiple indicators, ranked Sierra Leone with very miserable grades for many of the years before 2018.
In the past six years, there have been marked and unprecedented improvements-from rock- bottom to chronicling smashing numbers.
The recently released MCC scorecard for the Fiscal Year 2024 sees the country for a sixth consecutive time maintain a score of over 70 percent, from a previous 49 failing percent in 2017 in the ‘Control of Corruption’ Mandatory Indicator. Outperforming other compatriots like Ghana, Nigeria, Mali, Kenya, Egypt, Morocco, Mozambique, among others, the country also for six consecutive years emerges as among the top 10 performers in Africa.
Domestically, the National Corruption Perception Survey conducted by the Public Financial Management Consortium led by the Center for Accountability and the Rule of Law (CARL) published in 2020, revealed that 92 percent of the respondents were convinced about the fight against corruption and the strides of the ACC. Guinea, Gambia, Liberia, Uganda, Malawi are among the many countries that have visited to understudy the reasons behind the huge successes made especially in the last five years.
With a wide range of approaches, including Prevention through comprehensive and thorough systems and processes review, aggressive and sustained Public Education, and Enforcement through Investigations and Prosecution, the country has been racking staggering numbers and making impressive gains.
WILL, VISION AND FORTITUDE
Sarah Chayes in her novel ‘Thieves of State’ clearly showed the link between corruption and violence, corroborated by the foregoing analysis in the context of our decade-long conflict. In the inaugural address of His Excellency Brigadier (Rtd.) Dr. Julius Maada Bio, the President from the onset committed to declaring a democratic war on Indiscipline, Corruption and Poverty. These are closely interwoven and the wisdom in that speech was supported by the appointment of a young, energetic result-oriented Francis Ben Kaifala Esq.
In the then newly appointed Commissioner’s maiden address, he equally made a strong commitment to making corruption a high risk and extremely low return venture.
In 2019, he helped in strengthening the Anti-Corruption Act of 2008, making it one of the strongest anti-corruption laws in the continent. In this amendment, Assets Declaration measures were toughened, fines and prison terms increased, Non-Conviction Recovery as provided for under the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) and the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption (AUCPCC), was clearly expressed in the amendment.
From his stewardship, the Commission can boast of recovering about 40 Billion (Old) Leones chiefly from Non-Conviction Asset-Based Recovery. The Special Anti-Corruption Division of the High Court of Sierra Leone established by the Judiciary helped to address the snail-paced nature of ACC matters; and the conviction rate became as high as never seen before.
The Prevention interventions of the Commission were intensified with many Systems Reviews conducted in various Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) including revenue-generating institutions.
The work of the National Anti-Corruption Strategy (NACS) Secretariat also ensured the establishment of Integrity Management Committees (IMCs) in over 94 MDAs which resulted in huge compliance rate in the implementation of the 2019-2023 NACS Action Plan.
With one of the most robust Public Education and Public Relations Outfit, the Commission boasts of its active presence in all major social media handles and with a routinely updated website. This is coupled with the ever-aggressive usage of the traditional media; Radio, Television and Newspaper publications to inform and educate Sierra Leoneans about the work and activities of the Commission.
With the Commissioner being the lead Public Relations person, anti-corruption messages had been taken to every nook and cranny of the country - with sessions in various towns and villages, and all widely recognized universities/colleges.
In various schools and universities, there are structures of Integrity and Accountability Now Clubs established through engagements dubbed as "Meet the Schools" and "Meet the Universities" campaigns often conducted to instill the values of integrity and probity in young people.
These sheer displays of unprecedented will and admirable vision exhibited by the Kaifala and Ngobie administration have done tremendous good to the country’s anti-corruption campaign.
It is no gain saying therefore that, the consistent gains and sustained efforts in the fight against corruption in the last six years are a manifestation that better is indeed possible.