By: Alex A. Bah, Communications Officer, ACC
The 2022 Transparency International Corruption Perception Survey Index (TI-CPI) 2022, for the fourth consecutive year, chronicled a majestic leap and a consistent upward mobility in the country’s effort to curb graft. The recently published Report positions Sierra Leone comfortably in the top 25 spot of best performing countries in Africa with a score of 110 humbling a record number of 70 countries out of 180 assessed globally. This monumental progress is truly a testament of the well-structured systems, stouthearted leadership and resolute Presidential and continued Political Will in supporting the fight.
For a country that previously its position was 130 in 2017, moving 20 places upwards in just four years, and reckoning a stellar 34 points score out of a 100, which is above the sub-Saharan average, is no small gain. Just in 2013, Sierra Leone was at the rock bottom of the TI-CPI, Barometer Report as one of the most corrupt countries in the world.
EMERGENCE OF SIERRA LEONE’S WAR ON CORRUPTION
Renowned Scholar, Adam Smith in his landmark book on wealth, statecraft and moral virtue; Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of Wealth (1776), aptly puts it that “No Society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable.” Widespread corruption that has permeated various facets of the Sierra Leonean society, has made the rich lavishing opulent lifestyle and the poor wallowing in the most abject forms of poverty. With the formation of the ACC, informed to ensure that corruption is reduced to the barest minimum, successive leaderships have made tremendous efforts to curb this menace, yet corruption remained, and the country was performing miserably in various local and international indexes.
On the 12th May 2018, the President His Excellency Brigadier Rtd. Dr. Julius Maada Bio in his inaugural address, declared what he described as a “democratic war” preeminently on the insidious plague - corruption.
In one of his maiden addresses, the young Commissioner made a groundbreaking statement in the most unequivocal terms that he was going to make corruption a high risk and an extremely low return venture. He assured the nation that the fight against corruption was not going to be business as usual, and he was going to ensure there is a much needed awareness and ensure that the discourse on corruption takes a center stage.
INCENTIVES FOR SIERRA LEONE’S SUCCESS
Following his appointment and firm commitments, Francis Ben Kaifala Esq. dubbed as the “People’s Commissioner”, immediately hit the ground running. He saw the need for revolutionary approach in the fight against corruption taking into account both preventive which is a proactive front, and the investigative and subsequent prosecutorial front. In the first year of his leadership, the country experienced an unprecedented positively increased margins in the control of corruption. He formatively initiated a sustainable and robust approach through the amendment of the Anti-Corruption Act of 2008.
THE 2019 AMENDMENT ACT
“…we need to put the country on a firm trajectory of reputational laundry and corrupt-free going forward. It is these that have predicated the need to review the act and provide solid foundation for the Commission to be able to reach its fullest potentials for the country to once again gain respectability…”, Francis Ben Kaifala noted in a piece he authored in 2019 .
On the 3rd December, 2019, the Anti-Corruption Amendment came into effect, after the Presidential assent. This amendment made stronger laws with stiffer punishments. The court fine was increased to a minimum of 50 Million Leones (Old) and a minimum five years jail term. It made provision for a non-conviction recovery model for public officers, with a minimum 10% interest and mandatory exclusion for holding public offices for a minimum of 3 years. It also made provision for trial in absentia and shifts the evidential burden for certain offences; and enables the Commission to appeal rulings that are deemed lenient or disproportionate. The amended Act of 2019 also critically mirrored in assets declaration, procurement process, examination and academic fraud among many others.
The 2019 Amendment became one of the strongest anti-corruption legislations in the continent. It was the most needed incentive to set a radical path to fight and expunge endemic corruption.
THE ANTI-CORRUPTION DIVISION WITHIN THE HIGH COURT OF SIERRA LEONE
In April 2019, the Special Anti-Corruption Division of the High Court was created. This division was established with the view to address the snail-paced nature of corruption matters that previously queued other matters. This was a challenge that the Commission was facing as certain matters lasted 3-6 years on average before completion. The establishment of this court saw matters tried expeditiously, with an average completion rate between 3 to 6 months.
ROBUST PUBLIC EDUCATION OUTFIT
The establishment of the ACC and the amendment to the Parent Anti-Corruption Act of 2008 was not really informed to have citizens who suspectedly committed corruption offences; prosecuted and convicted with the corresponding sentences, but, the overarching purpose is to have people desist completely from engaging into any acts of corruption which can most effectively be determined by their cognitive orientation. This is where public education perfectly sits and fits in, with nationwide town hall meetings led by the Commissioner himself, to Public Lectures in almost all Universities/Colleges in Sierra Leone. This was a platform meant to initiate a conversation aimed at educating people and raising their awareness, whilst stimulating their consciousness and the issue of corruption; its devastating consequences, and the tremendous benefits the country can gain if the scourge is curtailed.
Not limiting it to these much needed outreach that is done in the most hard-to-reach communities, is the meet the Schools and Meet the University Campaigns as well as the existence of Integrity Accountability Now Clubs in Schools and Colleges, respectively. These campaigns and established outfits are geared towards instilling the culture of integrity in the emerging generation, and have them understand that anything short of integrity must be rejected in all its forms.
With a new Unit created in the Public Education and External Outreach Directorate and named as “Public Relations”, various media platforms could hardly go a day without conversation on the fight against corruption surfacing. News and Informative articles are a routine and permeate both traditional and new media platforms. The ACC’s website remain to be one of the most active and updated websites, together with the many other social media handles; Whatsapp, Facebook, Instagram, Tiktok, Linkdeln, Youtube, Twitter, etc.
The powers of Section 7 of the Anti-Corruption Act of 2008, as amended, gives the Commission the powers to examine practices and procedures of public bodies; Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), and where there are loopholes, institute the necessary review(s) that they are bound to comply with by the provisions in Section 8 of the said Act.
In the last four years, fourteen (14) reviews have been conducted in various MDAs. Eight (8) Institutional Anti-Corruption Policies crafted for institutions including; National Commission for Social Action (NaCSA), Ministry of Mines and Mineral Resources and the Sierra Leone Roads Safety Authority etc. Seven (7) Ethics and Integrity Training Workshops conducted in different MDAs. A total of 461 recommendations proffered through systems review, 336 recommendations were implemented and the total of 73% of compliance level rate.
THE FEAR OF THE SCORPION SQUAD
The creation of a squad dubbed “The Elite Scorpion Squad” created within the Intelligence and Investigation Department, gave a renewed sense of consciousness and seriousness of corruption. This squad came to be known for its inch-perfect and unerring sting operations providing a second thought, and creating fear in those engaging or about to engage in acts of corruption. This name alone sent shivers down the spine of people committing or intending to commit any corruption offence. As ordinary as these guerilla marshals are, they could appear anywhere when least expected and would accurately strike at their target(s).
CONVICTIONS AND RECOVERIES
The famous Nobel Prize laureate Rigoberta Menchú, posited that, “Without strong watchdog institutions, impunity becomes the very foundation upon which systems of corruption are built. And if impunity is not demolished, all efforts to bring an end to corruption are in vain.” It is in this respect that the ACC initiated a foundation and fenced its work with strong legal and structural systems that produced the desired results. Setting up of the Anti-Corruption Court for expeditious trials, and the legal framework, provided the much needed impetus for an unimaginable conviction and recovery rate in the last four years. In the well over forty (40) cases charged to court, convictions had been secured in over 90% of them with over 50 persons convicted.Over Forty Billion Leones (old) has been recovered through the non-conviction asset based recovery model, excluding court fines and restitutions.
AN EMERGING ATHENS OF AFRICA
Just as the ancient city of Athens that is home of one of the most renowned and influential social thinkers and philosophers like Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, etc.; and thus famously known as one of the earliest birthplace of modern knowledge, democracy and civilization, at a time when the rest of Europe was in its highly primitive state, Sierra Leone’s remarkable efforts, consistent and unprecedented progress in curbing corruption, is a tale to behold.
“How do you guys manage to be strong and powerful like this, and how do we learn from that”, underpins what the Executive Secretary of the Guinean National Anti-Corruption and Good Governance Promotion Agency (NACGGPA), Saikou Amadou Diallo said in their recent study visit in November, 2022. His visit was shortly followed earlier this year by his Deputy and others that continued their study tour as they perfectly structure their anti-graft outfit.
Teams from The Gambia visited multiple times in the past twelve months, as they are poised to template our systems. Liberia, Malawi, Ugandaamong others have all similarly paid study visits. The sub-region also benefited from the Sierra Leonean leadership for the first time, as Francis Ben Kaifala Esq. served as the President of the Network of Anti-Corruption Institutions in West Africa (NACIWA), and currently serving in the African Union Advisory Board on Corruption (AUABC).
Besides the TI-CPI Report, recently noting our continued success, various indicators, indexes and assessments continue to distinguish us, noting the unimaginable inroads made in the fight against graft. The Millennium Challenge Corporation Scorecard which is an independent US. Government outfit that assesses countries effort in promoting democratic governance and addressing poverty has Sierra Leone under the Control of Corruption Scorecard move from a failing 49 percent in 2017, to an inconceivable exponential rise in 2018 to 71% and has thus maintained the over 70% average and currently sitting at 79%. This also means that the country has moved and has maintained its top ten spot of best performing countries in Africa and continues to top the Mano River Union in every other assessments. The Global Afro-Barometer Index 2020, ranked Sierra Leone 3rd out of 35 countries in Africa, on the ‘Government’s effectiveness in the fight against corruption.
Local Assessments like 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, shows that 92 percent of the respondents were convinced that the fight against corruption in Sierra Leone is on the right trajectory.
These and many more have made our national fight against corruption to produce consistent positive results that attract admiration World Over. Therefore, it is of compelling importance that we continue to embrace the fight.
©Public Relations Unit, ACC