By David Yusuf Kabia
Democracy and good governance are intertwined words with two-sides-to-a-coin understanding in contemporary political administration. Both terms have convinced the ordinary understanding of persons that they gear towards creating that enabling environment to ensuring the well-being of all persons within a particular order, in a bid to allow institutions operate in a manner beneficial to all. This is in tandem with the requirement of Goal 16 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which is titled “Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions"
Jonston (2002, p.1-2) believes that good governance is “the legitimate, accountable and effective ways of obtaining and using public power and resources in the pursuit of widely accepted social goals”. From his definition, good governance is seen to be linked with the rule of law, transparency and accountability and as well requiring a partnership between the State and society in the management of public resources.
When the structures set up by Government for the smooth running of institutions in a State are successful, it is believed, that is good governance, while democracy is said to be in operation when the people are part of the decision-making process in the administration of the State. With resources in the hands of public servants for the said smooth running of the State, who ensures that the right things are done?
Can good governance and democracy exist successfully without an anti-corruption strategy to make sure public resources and property benefit a people in a democratic State? To this end, Rothstein and Teorell, 2008, UN, 2009, maintained that eight (8) principles of good governance remain as well the core in the fight against corruption. These are:
- Participatory: to ensure citizen’s participation in the fight against corruption as required by Article 13 of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) which states that it is necessary "to promote the active participation of individuals and groups outside the public sector, such as civil society, non-governmental organizations and community-based organizations, in the prevention of and the fight against corruption"
- Consistent with the rule of law: when the fight against corruption protects no one that falls foul of the law-those who breach the law must suffer the consequences of their actions regardless their financial or political status.
- Transparent: what is being done and how it is being done should remain public information. Budgetary transparency is key. The Right to Access Information Act, 2013 allows persons to access public information.
- Responsive: how anti-corruption agencies quickly respond to and handle issues across the board in an indiscriminate manner.
- Consensus-oriented: the national strategy to fight corruption should be developed in a manner encompassing their different views and inputs of society.
- Equitable and inclusive: when no one is considered less important in the fight against corruption.
- Effective and efficient: how well institutions operate to ensure the goal of fighting corruption succeeds.
- Accountable: that individuals and groups are responsible for their actions.
But why is corruption so linked with governance? The answer cannot be far-fetched from the fact that the availability of sufficient public property and resources for the benefit of society is dependent upon a fair distribution and protection of same, which is core to governance. The question whether or not the distribution of public resources and property is fair has been left for the ACC to answer. The United Nations and other institutions are of the strong belief that the prevalence of corruption in Africa particularly in Sierra Leone has been propelled by greed and selfishness by those occupying public offices and controlling public resources and property. This leaves the ACC as the watchdog to ensuring these resources are used for their intended purposes.
This normally puts the ACC at war with the corrupt, who convert public resources to private use and who give undue access and advantage to others in exchange for bribes. There is a wall separating good governance and corruption, and that wall is the ACC. But how well this forte is kept safe depends on not only how well the ACC fights but how cooperative the community is, too.
Since its inception in 2000, the ACC has played the role of protecting public resources and property, a war in which it favours no one except the innocent. But what society could have turned out to be and how public resources could have been managed outside the ACC watch is a consideration so destructively apparent. Yet, other quarters have opined that the ACC existence has protected those in governance who in actual fact, they should be running after. But this allegation is believed to be a weapon held by factions opposed to a Government whose players cast doubt in any administration different to that which theirs would have had.
The ACC structure in preventing, eradicating and suppressing corruption in a bid to ensure good governance and democracy continue be as good bedfellows. The Commission has employed various strategies and tools as explained below:
· Asset Declaration: Elected/appointed public officials and civil/public servants are required to tell what they own and their various sources of emoluments. This has been one of the smartest ways the ACC instills integrity in public officers and public offices to ensure that public officers live within their lawful and official emoluments.
· Public Education: the entire idea for a robust public education on corruption and its consequences is for citizens to develop the culture of always standing up against corruption- by resisting, rejecting and reporting any act of corruption to the ACC. This is also to help the young generation of Sierra Leoneans -that will be occupying public offices and controlling public resources and property- understand the meaning of integrity and honesty.
· Reports Management: it is not always the case that the ACC finds out by itself corrupt practices. Most times, cases investigated emanate from complaints made to them by the public regarding corrupt activities in certain places. Although some of the reports do not fall under the purview of the Commission, yet, the ACC often makes referrals of such cases to the appropriate authorities and follows through on how they are handled. For matters that fall within the mandate of the ACC, the Complaints Review Committee often decides on whether a particular case should go to the Public Education and Outreach Department, Prevention Department or to the Intelligence and Investigation Department.
· Investigations: this is the process of looking at in-depth the merits of the case reported to ascertain whether or not it meets the minimum evidential threshold for it to be sent to court. The Intelligence and Investigation Department of the Commission conducts investigations dispassionately and professionally.
· Prosecution: It is obvious that where sufficient evidence is at hand, the next step would be to prosecute or charge the offender (s) to court. In other words, an indictment is filed against the accused person(s).
While good governance and democracy are both key in the provision of public resources and property, the role of the ACC in protecting the provided resources and property for the benefit of the public cannot be overemphasized. Hence, without its existence, public resources would be preyed on by individuals without fear and caution.