By Sylvanus Blake
The Commissioner of the nation’s Anti-Graft agency, Francis Ben Kaifala Esq. on Tuesday 18th October 2021, presented to His Excellency, President Julius Maada Wonnie Bio at State House in Freetown, the Annual Report of the Commission for 2021.
The event, which is in compliance with Section 19(1) of the Anti-Corruption Act of 2008 as amended in 2019 attracted Government Ministers, Members of the Diplomatic Community, Heads of Integrity watchdog Institutions, Civil Society, the Media, among others.
Presenting the Report to the President and by extension to the people of Sierra Leone, the ACC Commissioner, acknowledged the President and the Government of Sierra Leone for what he described as their unwavering and exemplary support to the Commission.
“Your Excellency, for four years we have incrementally progressed at all fronts in the crusade against corruption which is aimed at laundering the image of Sierra Leone and positioning her to take her rightful place amongst nations that are on the trajectory of sound economic growth. We continue to do our work for the people of Sierra Leone, irrespective of the daunting nature of the task,” the Commissioner underscored.
He went on to state that the 2021 Annual Report highlights the work of the ACC, the gains and successes made, challenges faced and plans for the ensuing years.
Ben Kaifala furthered that the ACC has continued to make corruption a very high-risk, low-return, and expensive venture for the corrupt as the President had declared.
“Those who engage in corruption should make a choice, and within the framework of that choice, they should be prepared for the consequences thereof”. He stated that the ACC has continued to develop policies that shall continue to heighten the effectiveness of the campaign against corruption.
These include a “Non-Prosecution Policy” to regulate the non-conviction-based asset recovery approach to the fight against corruption, and the “Sentencing Guidelines” and a “Practice Direction” which have been submitted to the Hon Chief Justice Edwards.
Earlier, the Deputy Commissioner, ACC, Augustine Foday Ngobie stating the purpose of the gathering, thanked President Bio and his Government for what he referred to as their determined and inspiring leadership and support to the Commission.
He stated that the ceremony was a further testament of the Commission’s posture of being accountable to the Government and people of Sierra Leone.
Receiving the Report, the President while applauding the work of the ACC stated that as a government, they had clearly mapped out the adverse effects of corruption on our nation. He said that amongst many others, corruption undermines the buoyancy of the economy, donor and investor confidence, the smooth and quality delivery of public services like education, health, infrastructure, and governance, destroying the integrity of institutions of the State, muddles the image of the State, etc.
“We, therefore, labeled corruption as an existential threat, resolved it is a fight we must fight and a fight we must all win together” President Bio stated. President Bio also said that the nation’s anti-corruption campaign is underpinned by the four strategic pillars of prevention, public education, investigation, and prosecution.
He referenced the sustained engagements with public sector institutions as one that has helped reform systems, processes, and practices in these institutions, hence making them resistant to corruption.
While acknowledging the outstanding progress made in the fight against corruption, President Bio affirmed that his Government has taken decisive steps to strengthen the hand of the ACC to independently and transparently carry out its mandate through strong legislative reforms and heightened political commitment and support to its work, key amongst being the radical and progressive 2019 amendment provisions to the 2008 Anti-Corruption Act, the introduction of the Special Anti-Corruption Division of the High Court of Sierra Leone with state of the earth paraphernalia and resources dedicated exclusively to the prosecution of corruption cases which have led to a higher turnout of verdicts and convictions, the huge recovery of stolen wealth and assets in the past three years, which outweighs what was recovered in more than a decade before 2018, the favorable, progressive and historic scores in all credible international anti-corruption indexes and ratings, to name but a few.
President Bio also noted that the Anti-Money Laundering and Combating of Financing of Terrorism (Amendment) Act (No 3) of 2019, which he signed into law was to give the ACC jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute money laundering and financing of terrorism-related offenses thereby, extending the prosecutorial mandate of the Commission. He thanked the ACC Commissioner and his team for their dedication, fortitude, and outstanding successes in the fight against corruption.
President Bio pledged his government’s continued commitment to the fight against corruption which will save the soul of this nation. The Annual Report covers the work and activities of the Commission in 2021, in the areas of; public education, prevention, assets declaration, national strategy implementation, grievance redress mechanism, intelligence, investigation and prosecution, administration, and finance.
It was a year the country increased its percentage score to 83% in the ‘Corruption’ indicator in the Millennium Challenge Corporation scorecard and ranked 115 out of 180 countries surveyed in the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index (TI-CPI).