By Alex A. Bah
In June 2018, following the rallying calls from various sections of the public for the President to rest the huge onus of fighting corruption which underpins one of his campaign promises in the young and energetic hands of the highly educated individual; Francis Ben Kaifala was appointed to serve in that revered capacity. Three years has quickly gone by and the strides and efforts made in the fight are unimaginable. Inspite of the corrosive effects this insidious plague has, it has immersed every facet of society and has for long been almost accepted and considered a norm. In every aspect of life; private and public spaces, corruption has been deepening and prevalent.
Francis Ben Kaifala announced his presence as the commander in the fight against graft by amending various sections of the Anti-Corruption Act of 2008. In the amendment of 2019, Commissioner Kaifala notably ensured stiffer laws that suggest more severe punishments, witness protection, asset declaration, to name but a few. Remarkably also, the new assets declaration regime reduced the pool of declarants from all public officers to grade 7 upwards, and it is done every bi-annually to enhance effectiveness and efficiency, unlike the past two (2) decades when the declaration of assets was annually. With complimentary efforts from the Auditor General’s office, much credence has been given to audit reports in recent times which has generated public discourse and has led to the recovery of huge stolen funds and properties from corrupt individuals, which are paid into the consolidated funds or redirected to the Agency concerned.
Importantly also, the transformative drive of Francis Ben Kaifala in the fight led to the creation of a special Anti-Corruption division within the High Court of Sierra Leone with dedicated Judges to preside, expedite and dispose corruption cases.
Impressively, Sierra Leone has enjoyed a steady and unprecedented progress in the Millennium Challenge Corporation Scorecard from a failing 49 percent in 2017, before his tenure, to 71 percent in 2018, 79 percent in 2019, and 81 percent in 2020. This monumental upward mobility led the country to become compact eligible for a multi-million dollars development fund by the United States Government.
In other various indexes, Sierra Leone scored impressive results. The Transparency International Corruption Perception Index in 2018 had the country registering its score of 129, 119 in 2019, and 117 in 2020. The National Corruption Perception Survey Report funded by the British Department for International Development (DFID), and conducted by the Center for Accountability and the Rule of Law (CARL) Restless Development, Budget Advocacy Network (BAN), and Christian Aid, UK, noted that the over 92 percent of citizens believe ACC is creating the greatest impact in the fight against corruption. The Afro Barometer Survey Report also had the citizens’perceptionon the fight against corruption which indicated that corruption prevalencedeclined to 40 percent in 2020 from 70 percent in 2017.
Within these three highly successful years, the ACC with all its enormous and huge efforts succeeded in winning over 95 percent of its prosecutions, and made recoveries to the tune of 3 Million United States Dollars from corrupt government officials and institutions. Buildings and Vehicles including Two Toyota Land Cruisers have also been recovered.
Francis Ben Kaifala’s highly successful three years with mind-blowing results enticed the attention and luring admiration from various quarters both locally and internationally. This saw his appointment to serve as President of the Network of Anti-Corruption Institutions in West Africa, and his election in February, 2021 to serve in the African Union Advisory Board on Corruption.
As public education is a very important preventive tool in the fight against corruption, Francis Ben Kaifala has travelled the length and breadth of Sierra Leone on his visits which he titles as “Meet the People Tour” and “Public Lectures”. He used these strategies in cascading very important messages to ordinary Sierra Leoneans and emerging leaders, by educating them on corruption and its rippling effects, while stimulating their consciousness, appealing to their senses of reasoning and getting them register their commitment to the cause of fighting corruption.
The decisive reforms, huge steps, painstaking efforts and massive successes and results in these three years of fighting corruption, injected new hope in the future of Sierra Leone. The presidential, political will andthe public support enjoyed,contributed immenselyto the landmark achievements in this fight with Francis Ben Kaifala leading the campaign.