By Alex A. Bah
For the first time ever, Sierra Leone has maintained a stunning streak of astonishing progress in the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) Scorecard. This monumental feat was earned and reached with the latest release of the MCC Scorecard, published on Thursday 3rd November, 2022. This Scorecard registers a remarkable 79% pass for Sierra Leone in the ‘Control of Corruption’ mandatory indicator, out of a possible 100%.
The country before the commencement of this streak, had recorded a clear-cut failure for ten (10) years, and a pass slightly above 50% for five years. The highest score being 53% recorded in 2011, 2012 and 2016. Since the current leadership assumed office, the country moved from its previously failing positions to massive and astonishing heights that has been maintained thus far. From a failing 49 percent in 2017, 2018 saw the country recording a stunning 71 percent, 79 percent in 2019, 81 percent in 2020, 83 percent in 2021 and 79 percent in 2022.
The MCC Scorecard is a blueprint of the Millennium Challenge Account, which is an independent US Government outfit that designs scheme attempting to address poverty and promote sustained economic growth. Through this scheme, the MCC provides compact funds for eligible countries that pass its indicators, and demonstrate resolute commitment to promote a just and democratic governance with secured and unhindered social and economic freedom and promote human capital development.
The Scorecard has a number of indicators used to assess countries’ performances which will be instrumental to identify, and suggest better and effective policies to enhance progress and sustainable development. The Control of Corruption falls squarely under ‘Ruling Justly’ indicator, as a sub, but mandatory. It seeks to assess a country’s democratic governance, rule of law, human rights and the protection of lives and properties, transparency and accountability, and “efforts in combating corruption”.
This Control of Corruption sub indicator is aimed at assessing the level of petty or grand corruption within the political space, the notable efforts made to address it; the frequency of smaller scale/petty corruption; the impacts of corruption on the business environment and the tendencies for the elitist class to engage in “state capture”. These areas inform the outcome of the Scorecard.
Sierra Leone that equally never had back-to-back passes before 2018, thus ineligible for the compact grant, still sits comfortably for four consecutive years in the top ten spot of best performing countries in Africa, and for another year emerges as the highest in the Mano River Union. This standard that the country had set and continues to maintain in this ranking, is in tandem with many other domestic, regional and global rankings and assessments within the last four years.
The recent Transparency International Corruption Perception Index corroborate same, as the country has for a third consecutive time made multiple sprints from 130 in 2017, moving 15 places upwards to 115 in 2021. This recent continued excellence in the TI-CPI emerged at a time when many countries recorded their lowest performance, amidst the widespread stagnation at the global level, chiefly influenced by the the devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Over fifteen percent of countries last year are at their historic low with abysmal performances, and many other countries were at a standstill in the CPI.
At Domestic levels, the National Corruption Perception Survey conducted by the Public Financial Management Consortium led by the Center for Accountability and the Rule of Law (CARL) published in 2020, revealed that 92 percent of the respondents were convinced the fight against corruption in Sierra Leone is on the right path and that the ACC is creating huge impact in minimizing the scourge.
The radical Public Enlightenment continues to stimulate a growing consciousness in people on corruption and its devastating effects. This has thus unsurprisingly made the conversation on corruption take center stage on national discourse, more than ever before.
In these years under review, there has been an ever-aggressive and radical enlightenment aimed at instilling a sense of integrity right from schools through the “Meet the School” campaigns and the existing Schools’ Integrity Clubs. This has also been taken to the Universities, with the intensive “Meet the University Campaign” and the resuscitation of the Accountability Now Clubs in Universities and Colleges. The Public Lectures in various towns by the Commissioner himself, has also benefited various institutions across the country. These lectures see students converged and have conversation on the fight against corruption.
The ever-growing presence of the Commission on every widely interactive online platform like WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, Tiktok, LinkedIn, Youtube, Twitter and Website have bolstered the Commission’s image globally. These platforms are routinely updated to inform, bring up to speed and enlist citizens in the anti-graft campaign. This is in addition to the Traditional Media Engagements; Radio and Television talk shows, daily and periodic publications of News Items, Articles, Bulletins, Newsletters etc.
Partnerships have also been forged and Memoranda of Understanding signed with over 50 strategic good governance institutions, the media and civil society groups.
Through the National Anti-Corruption Strategy (NACS) Secretariat, the ACC has established functional Integrity Management Committees (IMCs) in over 94 MDAs, which are meant to address key corruption issues in their institutions as per the National Anti-Corruption Strategy 2019-2023 implementation action plan. Over 70% of the MDAs with IMCs are largely compliant in implementing the recommendations in the Strategy.
The Prevention Department has equally conducted thorough systems and processes reviews in many Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), with the view to identify corruption vulnerabilities; review of practices and procedures and provide systems review recommendations and best practice guides to promote and enhance effective service delivery.
The establishment of the Special Anti-Corruption Division within the High Court of Sierra Leone has been a landmark gain which accounts for the many successes recorded in the fight against corruption. The expeditious trial of cases with an average completion time of 1-6 months, has addressed the snail-pace at which ACC matters previously queued in court with other matters, and took an average of 3-6 years before completion. With dedicated Judges presiding over ACC matters, there has been over 90% conviction rate in the last three years. In 2020 alone, the Commission secured over 12 convictions.
The non-conviction asset-based recovery model also introduced within this period has caused the recovery of over 35 billion (Old) Leones and same has been paid into the consolidated revenue fund. All these and more are the portals for the success of the ACC which has equally attracted not just these exponential rises in local and global assessments, but also seen sister countries including; The Gambia, Liberia, Uganda, among others, seeking to understudy the strategies used by the ACC-SL to fight graft, with the view of replicating same in their institutions.
Whilst the various strategies employed in the fight against corruption have been yielding positive results, a strong Presidential and Political will, backed by a resolute leadership at the ACC, have all played a significant part in the control of corruption.
Sierra Leone will continue to trail-blaze and better is possible and can be achieved when unpatriotism and cynicism are shunned.