This was the central point in a keynote statement delivered by the Manager of the Anti-Corruption Commission Northeast Regional office, during an engagement with the Media and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) operating in Bombali district. Held on August 3, 2022 at the Commission’s conference hall in Makeni, the partnership meeting was to update the two institutions on the recent gains and activities of the Commission in its unwavering commitment to control and prevent incidences of corruption in the country.
Mariama Navo intimated the meeting that the synergy between the Commission and its partners has over long years led to breaking new frontiers in the fight against corruption. She offered effusive thanks to the two institutions, calling for a more strengthened collaboration to rid both the public and private sectors of impropriety for the benefit of all Sierra Leoneans, regardless of regional and political differences. ‘I am proud to say that the media and the CSOs have done very well. They have made laudable contributions towards the development and implementation of the current National Anti-Corruption Strategy, which is a firm national voice and action against the morbid institution of corruption.’
In a snapshot, the Manager referred to the country’s standing regarding international Corruption Perception Indexes. She cited the Millennium Challenge Corporation scorecard of 2021 which records the country’s ever highest score of 83% on the Control of Corruption indicator and, the Transparency International scorecard of the same year which reports the country’s remarkable progress in fighting against corruption, ranked 115, with a score of 34, above the Sub-Saharan average, leading 64 countries, 32 of which are African. Manager Navo went on to say that these significant gains, and several others, are reassuring indicators that the campaign against corruption within the country’s formal institutions is winnable.
According to the Manager, the ACC has deployed several structures to prevent and deal with corruption. Among others things, she made mention of the Grievance Redress Mechanism (GRM) as key component in the implementation of the on-going nation-wide roll out of the COVID 19 vaccines. She explained that the ACC-manned GRM provides a ready platform to receive and action on grievances from beneficiaries of the project. The same structure is set up within the poverty-alleviating Social Safety Net (SSN) project, guaranteeing also that targeted beneficiaries are not unfairly treated.
She called on the media and the CSOs to serve as watchdogs for every form of corruption and sound an alarm to the hearing of the public and the ACC for appropriate action to be taken. Madam Navo implored the media actors in particular to engage investigative journalism as an effective tool to unearth corruption and tell the related stories as they are, adding that this special genre could go a long way raising awareness about and stirring public consciousness against corruption. ‘In doing so, objectivity is advised in order to keep the public adequately and correctly informed,’ she concluded.
In his contribution, the ACC’s Senior Public Education Officer in the region, Abdul Karim Bangura, re-echoed the need for the Media and the CSOs to be actively involved in the fight against corruption. He emphasized that both institutions should take ownership of the struggle given their huge capacity, especially in reporting and advocating the concerns and aspirations of the public, to influence Government policies and hold Government accountable for its actions. ‘It is this power in your hands the ACC expects you harness more than ever to cleanse our nation of corruption,’ Bangura furthered.
While referring to Article 13 of the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), which he described as ‘the most esteemed call’ for the Media and CSOs to involve in the ‘prevention of and fight against corruption’, Bangura urged his audience to heighten the message on integrity to every corner of the country. He put it that, the lack of integrity breeds corruption, which is conspicuously absent in many of the country’s public bodies and that the Media and the CSOs could do an excellent job in educating the public and institutions that serve them to embrace this value at all times.
Responding to the issues of the engagement which the ACC Manager had earlier called as ‘a family meeting’, Edna Ngegba from Radio Maria in Makeni thanked the Commission for considering the Media and CSOs as trusted partners in preventing and controlling corruption in the country. She endorsed the Manager’s call for strengthened partnership moving forward in reducing corruption to its barest minimum for the socio-economic benefit of all Sierra Leoneans.
The meeting was chaired by ACC Public Education Officer, Aiah Sourie who earlier in his opening remarks highlighted the repeal of the 1965 Public Order Act by President Julius Maada Bio that had criminalized publications deemed as libelous, paving an enabling way and empowering the Media to report corruption without fear and compromise.
The engagement ended with a question-and-answer session.