THE FIGHT AGAINST CORRUPTION IN SIERRA LEONE GOES ON UNABATED
One of the campaign pledges by the President of Sierra Leone in 2007 was to ensure zero tolerance for corruption and to toughen the fight against corruption.
The following year, in 2008, Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma amended the Anti
Corruption Act of 2000 which gave prosecutorial powers to the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC). The 2008 AC Act also provided for the declaration of assets and liabilities by all public servants. It is recorded that this year, 2014 close to 23,000 public officers have submitted declarations in compliance with this regulation.
The National Anti Corruption Strategy (NACS) 2014-2018, is the national document defining the roadmap to the fight against corruption. It has as its fore objective, the mainstreaming of anti-corruption reforms across all the national Pillars of Integrity.
Implementation of the strategies of public education, prevention and prosecution has resulted in increased public awareness on issues of accountability, transparency and integrity in public life. It has stirred public debates about corruption and how citizens can become actively involved in the fight against corruption.
Prosecution and recoveries
The Commission has successfully prosecuted all levels of individuals, including sitting government ministers, high court judges, heads of government and non-governmental organisations, police officers, and customs officials. In 2014, the Commission has so far secured a 100 percent conviction rate in all its matters in the High Court. This includes a landmark conviction on the offence of unexplained wealth and failure to declare assets. This huge success in the cases prosecuted has resulted in a corresponding increase in the recovery of stolen public funds totalling as to date over $4Million.
Systems and processes review of public establishments
Consistent with its mandate, systems and processes reviews by the ACC has resulted in revealing how the systems are conducive for corruption to thrive. The Systems and Processes Review Department has produced cutting-edge recommendations for MDAs, which has promoted transparency and accountability. Compliance with recommendations following these reviews has contributed to improved service delivery and revenue generation.
For example the daily revenue generated in the births and deaths registration office was tripled as an outcome of the intervention of the ACC. In the customs and excise department, monthly targets have been exceeded. The introduction of citizens’ service charters, guidelines on the use of public assets and codes of conducts for local councils are some of the measures taken to manage and control corruption in parallel with the decentralisation process.
In early 2014 the Transparency International global barometer report ranked Sierra Leone as one of the countries where bribery is prevalent. To counter this, a Take no bribe, Pay No Bribe Campaign’ was launched by the president with support from the Department for International Development (DFID) to tackle the practice of bribery in the country. In another approach the commission in collaboration with the European Union (EU) the mainstreaming of anti corruption in the public service is in progress with integrity management committees within the ministries, departments and agencies. The African Development Bank ( AfDB) has also supported the commission in providing capacity building, and training opportunities for staff.
The signing of Memorandums of Understanding with public institutions and civil society organisations serves the purpose of networking, information sharing and mobilising support for the fight against corruption. These include the attitudinal and behavorial change secretariat, the Tink Salone a civil society organisation, Advocaid which is involved in the bail is free campaign, the auditor general’s office and several other civil society organisations.
The commission has presented its budget for the 2015 fiscal year to the budget oversight committee as part of the transparency and accountability process in budget allocation. It is important to note that the government has been demonstrating a very strong political will in the fight against corruption by providing over 90% of the Commission’s budget.
Cognisant of the expansion of the information and communications technology, the social media platform the Commission has developed an application for android phone users to anonymously report corruption in a much faster and easier way. The ANTI-CORRUPTION COMMISSION SIERRA LEONE APP is on the SIERRA LEONE APP on Google Play and can be downloaded free of cost.
Domesticating UNCAC provisions
Sierra Leone has made a remarkable compliance to these obligations by strengthening its Anti-Corruption Act and enacting a host of other legislation consistent with the Convention-such as the Anti-money Laundering and Finance of Terrorism Act 2012, the Procurement Act, the Government Budget and Accountability Act. Part VII of the Anti-Corruption Act 2008 makes provision for the ACC to cooperate and share information with foreign law enforcement agencies.
Monitoring of Ebola funds
The outbreak of the Ebola Disease has not only accounted for hundreds of lives in Sierra Leone but also severely affected the socio-economic development of the country. The ACC’s official response to the outbreak was to sympathise with the families of those who have lost loved ones, acknowledge the strides of those in the forefront in the fight against the disease, and reminding those handling Ebola funds and resources from government and local and international partners to use them judiciously in order not to contravene the provisions of the Government Budget and Accountability Act and the Anti-Corruption Act 2008.
The ACC Commissioner and his team also visited the regional cities of Makeni, Bo and Kenema to give words of support to staff of the Commission in those areas and meet with stakeholders responding to the Ebola disease. The meetings with members of the Emergency Response Team were to prevent the situation that led the Geneva-based Global Alliance for Vaccine Immunisation (GAVI) to suspend funding to Sierra Leone in 2013 following an audit report which showed mismanagement of their funds.
International Rankings and Accolades
The stride Sierra Leone has been making in the fight against corruption has been shown by the country’s rankings in corruption perception surveys by Transparency International and the Mo Ibrahim Foundation.
The Mo Ibrahim Index of 2013 which used indicators such as accountability, transparency and corruption in the public sector, corruption and bureaucracy, accountability of public officials, and prosecution of abuse of public shows the country has the largest 6-year improvement in accountability.
The 2013 Corruption Perception Index by Transparency International shows that the country moved four places up from the 123rd position out of 177 countries ranked in the index. This means that Sierra Leone’s steady progress in the fight against corruption has seen it go thirty-nine places up in the index in the last five years.
The country’s efforts do not go unnoticed as the ACC has received several accolades which include a World Bank award in 2010, an award of excellence in 2011, and more recently in May this year at the 4th commonwealth regional conference for heads of anti corruption agencies in Africa in Accra Ghana, Sierra Leone attained a first place benchmark by the Commonwealth as a country for transfer and peer learning.
In spite of the successes in the fight against corruption, several challenges exist. A major challenge is the celebration of the corrupt:
Citizens are the main drivers in state governance, making them pivotal to the national anti-graft campaign. When the main drivers are not supportive of the fight, the consequences are bad; they become even worse when citizens publicly demonstrate support for people charged or convicted of corruption.
When the populace, that critical mass, fail to support the fight against corruption, but would rather come out in full gear in support of convicts of corruption, such actions undermine and render irrelevant efforts geared towards the eradication of the hazard. The irony is, as a consequence of corruption, Sierra Leoneans are among the poorest people in the world. The mockery is unmistaken
Prospects for 2015.
In the words of the ACC commissioner, the Commission envisages an increase in the level of activities especially on investigations and prosecution of corruption related matters. This would require investment in capacity development and staff welfare in order to attract and retain more professionals.
In line with the Commission’s Strategic Plan and the Agenda for Prosperity, ‘the ACC will deepen the recovery of government resources, address wastage in local government and take advantage of sector specific initiatives in the extractive industry such as the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiatives (EITI)’’. This would mean that additional system reviews will be conducted to prevent corruption in the extractive sector and other MDAs.
The Commissioner noted that as a means of promoting a corrupt free society in which good governance, effective and efficient public financial management, integrity, accountability and the rule of law are upheld, the National Anti-Corruption Strategy will be rolled out with renewed vigour and with a view to mobilizing sustained public support for the ideals of anti-corruption campaign.