By Amin Kef Sesay
During a short but very important programme, at State House on the 6th August 2020 the Commissioner of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), Francis Ben Kaifala presented the Commission’s 2019 Annual Report to President Julius Maada Bio at State House witnessed by representatives from various institutions.
Before the presentation the Deputy Commissioner of the ACC, Augustine Foday Ngobie, said that they were presenting the report in fulfilment of the provision in Section 19(1) of the ACC Act of 2008 as amended, noting that the report comprehensively chronicled the overall activities of the Commission and captured details on all departments for the year under review.
He said that 2019 could be safely described as a year of remarkable success for the Commission, taking into consideration the achievements and success stories both locally and internationally. He also said that they were able to strengthen the Commission through the amendment of the laws which had made corruption a high risk but low return venture.
“Your Excellency, the Commission remains very grateful to you for the determined and inspiring leadership demonstrated towards the fight against corruption and the general work of the Commission. I also extend our thanks to the Ministry of Finance for its support in the payment of salaries, provision of recurrent expenditure and development,” he said.
After receiving the Report, President Julius Maada Bio in his address commended the leadership and staff of the Anti- Corruption Commission (ACC) for the Report and for their unwavering commitment to the fight against corruption over the last year.
He said since he assumed office, he prioritized fighting corruption because it is a threat to development as a nation. President Bio highlighted that a corrupt country is adverse for economic and social development, foreign direct investment, effective service delivery, fairplay and equal opportunity, equal access to justice and the rule of law.
“Today, the presentation of this Report gives us an opportunity to reaffirm my Government’s commitment to fighting this war on corruption. As, I say often, THIS IS A WAR WE MUST FIGHT AND IT IS A WAR WE MUST WIN,” he underscored.
The President disclosed how the year 2019, which the Report focuses, was both historic and significant in the fight against corruption for many reasons furthering that in 2019, he signed into law the Anti-Corruption Amendment Act of 2019 in fulfilment of both a manifesto and public commitment he made during the State Opening of Parliament in 2018 to resolutely stamp out corruption and make it unfashionable in public life.
He said the amended Act further strengthened the powers of the Commission, and addressed challenges that had undermined the success of the ACC.
“In 2019, the Special Anti-Corruption Division was established in the High Court with five (5) dedicated Judges to exclusively sit on ACC cases. Corruption cases no longer languish in court. Case management and trial processes for corruption cases are now more predictable, fairer, and faster,” he also revealed.
He said again in 2019, the Honourable Vice President, Dr. Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh, on behalf of his Government, launched Government’s strategic blueprint that includes the public and private sectors in fighting corruption.
The President intimated how the National Anti-Corruption Strategy (2019- 2023) or NACS is unique because it adopts a holistic, three-pronged approach to fighting corruption: Education, Corruption, Prevention, and Enforcement.
He said, the strategy also foregrounds the effective functioning of the Integrity Management Committees (IMCs) established in Ministries, Departments, and Agencies.
President Bio added that in 2019, the country’s international reputation has been enhanced because our international rating on controlling corruption and corruption perception indices are all very favorable. “Transparency International’s Corruption Afro-Barometer Report released in 2019, ranked Sierra Leone third, among 35 countries in Africa, for Government’s effectiveness in the fight against corruption. 66% of Sierra Leoneans believe that the Government is doing well in the fight against.
Remember that in 2015, only 19% of Sierra Leoneans held the view that their Government was doing well to fight corruption. Sierra Leone jumped up ten places in the 2019 Transparency Global Corruption Perception Index. We have jumped from 129 in 2018 to 119 in 2019. For the first time, we scored above the Sub-Saharan average of 32.
In 2019, Sierra Leone scored 79% in the Millennium Challenge Corporation control of corruption indicator. This was an improvement on the 71% score in 2018 during our very first year in office. Clearly, this was a significant improvement on the failing score of 49% scored by our predecessors,” he continued.
The President mentioned that surveys carried out by independent Civil Society Organizations and funded by foreign Governments, indicate significant improvements in fighting corruption.
He said the Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law’s National Corruption Perception Survey Report titled “Actions, Hopes and Impediments in the fight against corruption in Sierra Leone,” states that 92% of respondents believe that the Anti- Corruption Commission is creating the greatest impact in the fight against corruption. The survey further reports that three years ago, 57% of Sierra Leoneans believed there were sacred cows. That number has decreased to 47.7% over the last one year indicating greater confidence in investigation, prosecution, and trial rates.
President Bio stated that he is pleased to note that in 2019, the Anti-Corruption Commission expanded its operations and opened its North-West Regional office in Port Loko. “As I have indicated, decentralizing the control of corruption broadens the overall integrity framework because it gets more local stakeholders and actors directly engaged in combatting corruption in their local precincts,” he informed.
The President said he also notes the progress made in constructing the headquarters of the Anti-Corruption Commission stating that Government will continue to provide all necessary support to ensure its timely completion.
He said whilst these developments highlighted above show that we are clearly on the right path, winning the war against corruption requires sustained commitment and increased public confidence.
President Bio maintained that there will always be concerns, opinions, and challenges about the cases the Commission investigates, the cases it prosecutes, cases it wins and the cases lost in court but enjoined them not to be distracted stating that as a Government they are determined and committed to a sustained and elevated fight against corruption in this country.
He concluded by appealing directly to citizens that the fight against corruption is not just the responsibility of the Government or the Anti-Corruption Commission.
The President said given the cost of corruption for national development, for service delivery, and for economic and other opportunities, it is the duty of every citizen to say something and do something about ending corruption.
“It is a veritable existential threat to our nation and we must all see corruption as a common enemy that we must collectively fight. TOGETHER, WE MUST FIGHT CORRUPTION AND TOGETHER WE WILL WIN THE FIGHT AGAINST CORRUPTION,” he encouraged.