Sierra Leone – governance and the political will to fight corruption

John Baimba Sesay – China

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 17 October 2016

You can stop corruption

We do have challenges as a country, but we have come a long way. One area is the fight against corruption. President Ernest Koroma came in 2007 with the commitment to stepping up the fight against corruption.

His Success in the fight against corruption is measured not only by looking at the tangible gains like the number of cases investigated, prosecuted or convictions secured; but also by looking at the conducive environment created.

He enacted stronger anti corruption laws and gave space to accountability institutions to operate. This is what one would call the political will to fight corruption.

The passing of the Anti-Corruption Act 2008 was a game changer in the fight against corruption in Sierra Leone. Not only did it increase the number of offences from 9 to 34, it also strengthened the Commission’s investigative powers and solidified whistle blowing and witness protection.

The passing of the Constitution of Sierra Leone Amendment Act in 2008, to give prosecutorial powers to the Anti Corruption Commission, eventually ensuring the highest rate of corruption related prosecution and conviction, with billions of Leones recovered from persons convicted or investigated by the State.

Prevention is crucial in fighting graft. By way of stepping it up, we saw the introduction of the Anti-corruption System and Process Reviews of government Ministries, Departments and Agencies.

Comprehensive measures were also taken with the aim of strengthening public financial management in both central and local government.

acc-chief-macauleyAt the helm of the ACC as Commissioner is a young, energetic law professional – Ady Macauley, with a clear mindset to pursue his mandate, laid out in the AC Act.

As he himself said recently, it is not just about chasing ‘big fish’ when fighting graft, for corruption at whatever level is unacceptable.

In this vain, the commission continues to live up to expectations. It has also intensified its public education drive, which is critically strategic if the commission is to succeed.

Strengthening the legal framework for budgeting, accounting, recording and procurement was also central to the government- there was a review of the Government Budgeting and Accountability Act (2005), Financial Management Regulations (2007), Public Procurement Act (2004) and Procurement Regulations (2006).

Auditor-General-Mrs.-Lara-Taylor-PearceToday, there are not just regular audit reports by the Auditor-General’s Office, but these reports are published – making them public, thus allowing room for public discourse and scrutiny. Before now it was literally operating in secrecy. (Photo: Head of the Audit Office, Lara Taylor-Pearce).

The National Revenue Collection Authority was more or less a basket of cash for political campaigns.

Today, it has become more functional, productive and highly contributing to national development than before, with collected revenues lodged into the consolidated revenue funds.

Not only have civil society become active, they today play a valuable role in helping to advance the course of multi-party democracy in the country. Sadly though, some seem to be serving as surrogates for opposition parties. And morally, when that happens, it becomes wholesomely troubling for the effectiveness of participatory democracy.

In a nutshell, the current government has been more serious in tackling the challenging issue of corruption than any other in the recent past. Acceptably, there are challenges. The audit report shows how far we have come and the extent to which we should go in dealing with core governance challenges.

But it becomes disingenuous to present the current administration as having done nothing in tacking the challenges to governance, one being corruption.

ACC LOGO - corruptionIn fact, let us go down memory lane and compare the case I have made above to pre-2007; when a marine resources minister was accused of embezzling government funds. All the government could do was to ask for his resignation. He was never charged.

We all know about how an agriculture minister was convicted of embezzling donor funds and how the judge who fined the said minister Le. 500,000 was in turn convicted of having accepted bribes in trade for the light sentence.

And there was this case of a former transport minister (late) who had a bitter experience of how the government was clearly using the ACC as a political weapon, performing the valid rationale for which it was formed.

And what about the case in 2001, of two independent Freetown newspapers- Democrat and For di People who had accused then justice minister of accepting bribes in exchange for the release of an Israeli and a Russian held in Sierra Leone, pending extradition to Colombia on drug charges?

Not only was action taken as a reprisal measure, the ACC begun investigating For di People editor Paul Kamara for tax evasion. The rest, I would say, is history.

Expectations remain, and would also be high. However, we should endeavor to be forthcoming in discussing the country’s progress.

Indeed, we do have a long way to go. And given this reality, the president’s development trajectory through the prosperity roadmap, continues to provide the platform needed for growth.

Our overall success calls for the collective involvement – be you a civil society activist, media practitioner or politician.

Partisan politics should be taken out of certain issues, especially if one is speaking from the front of civil society activism.

To suggest that “APC chops billions of poor people’s money” is not only a political statement, but an untrue presentation of the facts, given what this government has done in eight years in fighting graft. A long way we have come.

7 Comments

  1. THE DILEMMA OF THE GAMBIA

    As we are turning left and right in readiness with the SLPP conference to take place in Kenema, the Eastern city of Sierra Leone, I am feeling more restless about the political boiling pot in my second home country of the West African state of The Gambia.

    I call The Gambia my second home country as a result of the hospitality that accorded all Sierra Leoneans during the eleven years (1991-2002) of the Sierra Leone civil war during which President Yahya Jammeh widely opened the gates of The West African state of The Gambia to take refugee and that also encouraged the transit points for most Sierra Leoneans that qualified for resettlement in the United States of America (USA), Canada and other world destinations. It was from then, I realised that all Sierra Leoneans are spiritually Gambians and “verse-versa” in their beliefs, religions and other interrelations. “Salone Beke-Gambia Chepeh”.

    Let me further reiterate that I was not particularly in The Gambia to seek a refugee status. I entered The Gambia to work on a hired consultancy assignment as the British education professional body of the Institute of Commercial Management (ICM) representative to service the Gambia and which kept me engaged for six years until 2004 when I returned to the UK.

    Mr. Yahya A.J.J.Jammeh has been head of state of The Gambia since 1994 and no one can deny the country’s transformations at the different stages and in all phases since the past 22 years his rule. Well done Mr Jammeh, you have done a good job for not only The Gambia but for Africa as our continent.

    Recently, however, a General Election, held on 1 December 2016, emerged with a winner in the person of Mr. Adama Barrow, a property businessman that returned home from his study trip in London UK where he was a security guard at Argus store located at Hallowell road in North London.

    Reports of his election victory says that it was through a coalition of seven political parties and gaining a victory of 227,708 of 43.3% against that of Yahya Jammeh’s ruling “Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC)” that scored 208,487 of 39.6 % votes.

    Mr. Jammeh immediately conceded defeat of the General Election as he was made to believe through a telephone call and he congratulated Mr Adama Barrow and offered to provide him with all assistance he needs in the service to the people of The Gambia.

    The victory supporters of Mr. Barrow jumped into jubilation and remarking that the time has come to bring Yahya Jammeh to the trial of his leadership in the 22 years he has occupied the presidential seat and unwilling to move, must take him to ICC-International Criminal Court in The Hague, as a human-right abuser.

    Some electoral abnormalities have come to light which Mr Jammeh used to calculate the situation and immediately made a U-Turn that the election was fraudulent and he cannot accept the result basing on what is announced until the election is conducted again.

    “Four Presidents of ECOWAS met President Yahya Jammeh in Banjul”

    On 14 December 2016, a delegation of ECOWAS leaders of 4 West African heads of states including presidents Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria, Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone, and John Mahama of Ghana met Jammeh and president-elect Adama Barrow in an attempt to manage a peaceful transition of power.

    Mr. Yahya Jammeh says that this ECOWAS delegation asked him to step down immediately in the interest of peace in the sub-region, but he told them that he can’t until another general election is held as he does not tolerate political abnormalities to have a place on the peaceful Gambian stage, that has crumbled some African countries into the obis. Social media communications through “whasaap” quoting President Yahya Jammeh that:

    1. Votes of the administrative areas were transported to Mr. Adama Barrow’s ballot box that swelled his votes nationally to win. That is not the method for the operation of a coalition, he says.
    2. About 360,000-40% of registered voters did not vote which only happened for the first time in The Gambia general election. These people are also tax payers to the economy of this country. They must have equal opportunity to vote. My leadership stands for them all, as well. Therefore when the will of all Gambians are met to have another president of their country in a general election, I will be ready to hand over.

    President Yahya Jammeh has openly said that he cannot be threatened by ECOWAS force, to intimidate him to step-down on the 19 January 2017 the day that the handing over periods expires; and also that he cannot be treated like a coward. That is why he is not afraid of any force of power on the planet earth, such as ECOWAS to intimidate me, except Allah.

    A clause of ECOWAS says that no member countries has right to interfere in the internal affairs of a member states, especially when there is no war to settle down. The Sierra Leone case was exceptional because a legitimate government of President Tejan Kabbah was overthrown by Johnny Paul Koroma. But this is not the case of The Gambia.

    Jammeh’s party, Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC), has filed a legal petition to challenge the election results, raising the possibility that president-elect Adama Barrow’s narrow win at the polls could be overturned. APRC has also called for new elections.

    Military intervention in The Gambia is “possible” if President Yahya Jammeh does not step down after having lost elections, the head of the West African regional bloc Ecowas has said.

    The questions at everybody’s mouths are: Is Yahya Jammeh a true hero of Africa or just a lousy fellow taking advantage of the military training?

    What do you think is the best political approach to take The Gambia from the state of dilemma?

  2. The views expressed in this article lack objective focus on the realities found on the ground in Sierra Leone. Progress will not come by, in a system of governance that does not observe the principles of good governance.

    A government that misconstrues progress from the mismanagement of the nation’s wealth, and embarks on vanity projects with misconception of priorities, is condemned to fail the nation.

    This APC government gives prestigious projects a priority over sound development policies regarding the needs of the country and the citizenry. It is surprisingly failing the nation. Bad governance underpins the failure of this Ernest Koroma APC government.

    Good governance is the process whereby public institutions conduct public affairs honestly, manage public resources wisely and guarantees Human Rights in a manner that is free from the abuse of power and the practice of corruption. Due regard for the rule of law is paramount. All of these parameters are alien to this APC government.

  3. The Author of this article is part of the system. We all know that the Author’s job is to lie about what he and his paymasters are stealing from Sierra Leone.

    However, outright lies like these should not be said because they hinge on life and death, and anyone who tells such lies is akin to a ‘latent’ murderer in a state that is killing its people by pocketing monies meant for life-saving amenities. Mr. Author, please do not tell us that Satan was a boy when he deceived Adam and Eve!

    Before 2001, there was no talk of corruption as a hindrance to development in Sierra Leone. Rather, those in governance made it looked as if it was part of the institutionalized governance. Under the APC led governments of Presidents Siaka Stevens and Momoh, corrupt individuals paraded as icons and celebrities in the country. A case in point is the admiration and affinity that the Author of this article (Mr. Sesay) has for the ‘selected VP’ in Sierra Leone currently. With Alpha Kanu and others in President Koroma’s APC-led government, I wonder if the idea of celebrating corrupt individuals has changed.

    In 2001, the late President Kabba endeavoured to change that status quo by establishing the ACC. As with any organization, the ACC in its early existence did not find it easy to delve into that which previous governments have made the people to view as some form of traditional way of life.

    The work of the ACC in 2001 was further blighted by its first ever Commissioner who was determined to undermine the work of the very commission he was supposed to head. Despite all its flaws, the ACC between 2001 and 2007 went after prominent cabinet ministers, civil servants, and for the first time a senior Judge and Lawyers and journalist. The indictment of a Judge and lawyers is a feat that the current ACC with all its powers is yet to repeat despite the glaring evidence of corruption in that sector.

    Unfortunately, to this Authors, all those that the ACC prosecuted BETWEEN 2001 AND 2007 were targeted because of political rivalry and not corruption even though we all knew that Kabba was not pushing for an extension or a third term bid.

    Fast forward to 2008, with all the political gibberish that went around that the ACC has been given Prosecutorial powers, you will be amazed that the ACC has not achieved much in nine years than it did the five years of its existence during the Kabba Administration.

    In fact, the Commission has within these last nine years indicted and prosecuted only two Cabinet Ministers (Sheku Koroma, a Kissi from the East and Afsatu Kabba). The latter was freed because of the unwillingness of the State Department to pursue the matter vigorously at Appeals.

    Furthermore, one would be tempted to ask as to why the ACC under the new dispensation does not go after the likes of Okereh Adams and others that Mr. Sesay wrote in his article were sacred cows in President Kabba’s government? Financial evidence never rot.

    Ironically, everyone except the beneficiaries of the current APC largesse including the Author of this article are au fait with the fact that there is so much corruption taking place within Ministry, among Cabinet Ministers and top civil servants than it was in the previous government.

    So the question is, why is the ACC not going after all these fat corrupt cows despite the much touted Prosecutorial powers that its received in 2008? The answer lies with the one who is pulling strings – Ade Buy All.

  4. Corruption will never end in this country. The Anti-corruption Commission seems to be taking too much bribery these days rather than persecuting cases in court.

  5. Why is it that people like you John are in denial and that you are completely blind as to what is happening in your Country and within your Government?

    The Ebola crisis has made many politicians extremely wealthy. Do I need facts to make this kind of statement? Yes I do, but will it make a difference? I doubt it.

    The ACC was set up to expose corruption, however what it has become is the first line of defence for those involved in corrupt activity’s. It has enabled Government officials to do as they please and skim the money from donations that were given to help fight Ebola by the European tax payer.

  6. To simply put it, John you’re big big liar . The ACC is the worst in Africa. Nothing has come out of the billion-gates. Check the Ebola gate, the road construction squander-gates, etc. etc. Indeed the attention or priority to road construction is very strategic and timely, but a road the should cost ten pounds becomes 100 pounds is silly and a disgrace.

    Can you site for us the areas of the Auditor Generals reports that have been acted upon either by government or ACC . Man EBK has done some very good stuff , but his growing , if not uncontrolled appetite for excessive and unnecessary expenditures is heartless and unmanageable. Why take a dance troop to New York for a UN summit, allow Ministers travel for weeks on nonsense . Bo do yah man, .

  7. John Sesay, in reference to your statement above that: ‘Today, there are not just regular audit reports by the Auditor-General’s Office, but these reports are published – making them public, thus allowing room for public discourse and scrutiny. Before now it was literally operating in secrecy’.

    My concern is what actions did the Ernest Koroma led government take since 2007 when they came to power, when the then regular audit report where published. Making them public as compared to the findings of Dr Kandeh Yemkellah’s recent speech in London when he stated that ‘The Auditor General reported recently that Sierra Leone’s ministries and departments (MDAs) lose at least Le100 billion every year. This means that the Government of Sierra Leone (GoSL) has lost at least Le1 trillion since 2007.

    Unfortunately, government refuses to implement its own audit recommendations. Less than 20% of audit recommendations are implemented in the last 5 years. This suggests a deliberate and conscious institutionalization of leakages (“Wu sai den tie cow nar dae ee for eat”)’

    Are you aware that over ONE TRILLION LEONES HAS BEEN LOST SINCE 2007. The Auditor General is Apolitical in her deliberations as she is concerned with the day-to-day financial transactions of any government of the day in publishing the deliberate and conscious institutionalization of leakages, misappropriations, thefts, unnecessary wastage of public funds by the APC (Always Problem Continues) party government.

    Since 2007 when the APC party came to power it was estimated that every year AT LEAST 100 BILLION LEONES IS EMBEZZLED AT THE SIERRA LEONE MINISTRIES AND DEPARTMENTS HEADED BY APPOINTED MINISTERS AND SENIOR OFFICIAL BY THE PRESIDENT ERNEST BAI KOROMA. IS THAT WHAT YOU JOHN SESAY IS SAYING THAT ‘To suggest that “APC chops billions of poor people’s money” is not only a political statement, but an untrue presentation of the facts, given what this government has done in eight years in fighting graft. A long way we have come’

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