By Paul Abu Conteh
In his inauguration address, President Brigadier (Rtd.) Dr. Julius Maada Bio committed his Government to fight three social wars. He promised to wage war on poverty, indiscipline, and corruption. The President integrated these components in his New Direction manifesto. However, he hammered home these three (3) to lay the foundation for what his Government will commit to during his first term in office.
One of President Bio’s first actswas to entrust the leadership in the fight against corruption to a young, vibrant lawyer and human rights activist, Francis Ben Kaifala. He was appointed Commissioner of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC).
Ben Kaifala inherited a difficult situation at the time of his appointment: Transparency International’s Global Corruption Perception Index (CPI) ranked the country 129 out of 180 countries; the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) registered Sierra Leone at 49 %;the local Citizen Perception on Corruption Prevalence rated the country at 70% based on the information analyzed from research respondents and the Afro Barometer Corruption Perception Survey placed the citizens trust in the fight against corruption at an all time low.
During his tenure as ACC Headin three years since, Francis Ben Kaifala has presided over the enactment of the Anti-Corruption Commission (Amendment) Act 2019, the development of a National Anti-Corruption Strategy,and the creation of a Special Division within the High Court of Sierra Leone that deals with corruption-related offences with dedicated Judges. These Judges are charged to deal with corruption-related matters prosecuted by the ACC, efficiently and expeditiously. These actions have strengthened the institutional and public policy relevance of the Commission.
The Anti-Corruption Commission (Amendment) Act 2019 integrated components that increased transparency in the awardof Government contracts, protect witnesses, enhance asset declaration, improve citizens participation, and intensify punishment for persons found guilty of corrupt offences.
The fourth National Anti-Corruption Strategy (NACS) was adopted in 2019 – during the first three years of Francis Ben Kaifala’s leadership. The Strategy captures a three-pronged model: enforcement, prevention, and education. The ACC Czar and his Commission have made law enforcement the priority in the model. This Strategy will be implemented between 2019 –2023.
Francis Ben Kaifala instituted the Non-Conviction Asset-Based Recovery Approach at the ACC. This approach was designed to recoup stolen wealth from corrupt officials. In the past three years, the ACC has recovered over Le. 30 billion, a hotel, and a fleet of government vehicles.
To facilitate citizens’ engagement, the ACC Commissioner has made himself available for local community interactive sessions and public lectures. Francis Ben Kaifala recently concluded an inter-district tour. Mr. Kaifala used the opportunity to interact with citizens on the Commission’s policies, programs, and protocols. The ACC Commissioner has embraced public lectures. He has honored the invitation to speak with students at higher educational institutions – both public and private. In these two instances, he has consistently maintained that the activities of his institution are directly connected to the development trajectory of the country.Mr. Kaifala has rallied the populace to come onboard and ensure corruption is alleviated in Sierra Leone.
Three years in Francis Ben Kaifala’s leadership, this is how the data reads: Transparency International’s Global Corruption Perception Index (CPI) ranked Sierra Leone 117 among 180 countries in 2020. There is a 12-country stage gap decrease in country ranking.The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) Control of Corruption Indicator placed Sierra Leone at 81% in 2020. There is a 32% increase in percentage during Kaifala’stenure.The Citizens Perception on Corruption Prevalence reduced from 70% in 2017 to 40% in 2020. And the Afro Barometer Corruption Perception Survey showed an increase in trust in the fight against corruption from 40% in 2015 to 66% in 2019.
The Anti-Corruption Commission of Francis Ben Kaifala is not perfect. They have faced their owncriticism and controversies. However, compared to his predecessors, this ACC Commissioner and his administration have made tremendous, documented gains in the war on corruption.