The unsung strategies in the fight against corruption
By Abubakarr Turay (ABT)
The previous National Anti-Corruption Strategy (NACS) which ran from 2011 to 2013 provided for the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) to fight against corruption using a three-pronged approach; namely public education, prevention and prosecution or enforcement. The first two strategies are often referred to as the ‘carrot’ approach and the third, the ‘stick’ approach. This clearly explains why the ACC has three departments (Public Education and External Outreach Department, Systems Processes and Review and Department, and the Intelligence, Investigations and Prosecutions Department) which respectively carry out activities translating these approaches. (The NACS is the Government of Sierra Leone’s working document to curb corruption in the country).
The decision by the government to give prosecutorial powers to the ACC to investigate and prosecute its own cases has been yielding the desired dividend for the country’s fight against corruption, especially in the past four years. The passage of the Anti-Corruption Act 2008 has seen an unprecedented increase in the number of corruption-related cases prosecuted by the Commission, with a corresponding increase in the number of convictions secured. This has not only resulted in the recovery of over 12 (twelve) billion leones of stolen state funds in the past four years, but also given the country a steady upward ranking in transparency indices conducted by reputable organisations like Transparency International and the Mo Ibrahim Foundation. This is in fact why civil society organisations in Sierra Leone, especially those advocating for transparency and integrity in public life, have been praising the ACC for its tremendous successes and efforts in the fight against corruption.
However, I have come to realise that a good number of people often assess the ACC by the number of cases the Commission charges to court and the convictions secured therein. I want to state that anyone making such an analysis-sorry to say-may not have fully understood the mandate and work of the Commission, as over the years the ACC has equally made significant gains by the effective use of public education and prevention strategies in the fight against corruption in the country. I will start with how the latter strategy has been contributing to the anti-corruption drive of the Commission.
The Systems and Processes Review Department of the Commission works to review the internal systems (including the use of financial and material resources) of MDAs, develop policies and monitor the level of adherence to recommendations proffered during systems reviews. Simply put, the Department looks at how corruption prone the institutions are and how they can be made to be resistant to acts of corruption in a bid to ensure better service delivery. Such systems reviews have been carried out on several MDAs including revenue generating institutions like the Sierra Leone Airport Authority, Customs and Excise Department of the National Revenue Authority and the Ministry of Fisheries. This is why it never came as a surprise to some of us to learn that the NRA has in the recent past been exceeding its targets on revenues collected for the state. The Department has also helped put in place policy on the use of school fees subsidies; established best practice guide in the use of public assets; conducted systems reviews on the ministries of education, health, local government, fisheries, and works. Some of these activities have helped in the recovery of billions of leones that would have otherwise been stolen or misappropriated. The establishment of service charters to access or obtain services such as the free healthcare, passport, and national identity card can also be credited to this Department. I can conveniently state that the work carried out by the Systems and Processes Review Department of the Commission has not reduced wastages but also helped reduce incidences of corruption and improved service delivery in the institutions in which they were conducted.
Educating the Sierra Leonean public on corruption issues, seen as another preventive drive, has played a great role in the fight against corruption. The public education drive of the ACC is being spearheaded by the Public Education and Outreach Department. This Department has, as its main role, to educate the Sierra Leonean public about the ills of corruption and the importance of a corrupt-free society. This Department has been reaching out to all corners of the country to ensure that people are aware of the contents of the anti-corruption laws and how they can also help in the fight against corruption. The Department has been doing its work by conducting radio and television discussion programmes, public lectures, symposiums, seminars, town hall/ customized meetings across the country. The Department also takes leadership role in securing civil society support whose contributions are vital in the fight against corruption. Schools and tertiary institutions are also incorporated through the integrity clubs established in various schools, colleges and universities to help develop corrupt-free minds in young people. It is clear that the wide public discourse about corruption is due to the fact that the ACC, through its Public Education Department, has enabled the people to learn about what corruption is and how it affects their wellbeing and development of the country. This educational drive of the Commission is the reason why we all now see corruption as a common enemy.
In concluding, therefore, I must state that in as much as prosecution or enforcement remains a key and effective strategy in the fight against corruption, we should also bear in mind that other strategies such as the systems review of MDAs' and the rigorous public education campaigns by the ACC have created a significant impact in curbing corruption in the country. And I want to take this opportunity to implore all and sundry to also consider the impact of the prevention and public education strategies when making our opinions on the fight against corruption in Sierra Leone. Start writing here...