Sierra Leone Telegraph: 12 August 2018:
Last Friday, Francis Ben Kaifala – the Commissioner of the Anti-Corruption Commission of Sierra Leone, addressed the National Governance Symposium 2018, organized by the Institute for Good Governance.
He spoke about ‘the impact of corruption on our generation’ – a subject close to the heart of every Sierra Leonean today, especially as his Commission raises the stakes in fighting corruption in the country, which many believe is now an epidemic. And it is a fight that the government of president Julius Maada Bio must win.
This is what he said:
The Honorable Vice President, the Governor of the Bank of Sierra Leone, Honorable Ministers, Honorable Members of Parliament, Ambassadors, members of The Diplomatic and Counselor Corps, Governance Practitioners, Heads of Civil Society Organizations, Country Directors of NGOs, Chief Executives of companies, the press and all concerned, distinguished ladies and gentlemen. I bring you greetings from the Anti-Corruption Commission.
I feel profoundly indebted to the IGG for the choice of topic: “The Impact of Corruption on our generation”.
The topic is both timely and extremely relevant to the trajectory of President Bio’s NEW DIRECTION.
I stand to immensely benefit from such discourse given the fact that; as a new man in the job, who has begun working with the hardworking staff of the commission to reposition the country’s anti-graft campaign for optimum deterrent effect, I hope to profit from today’s discourse to feed into our broad strategy as a Commission.
To start with, one may ask, what then is corruption? For me, Corruption is, quite simply, public officers or other persons in positions of trust, depriving the people (beneficiaries) of what should be for their individual and collective good.
Generally, it is defined by Transparency International as “the abuse of public office for private gain.”
To say corruption has weakened our generation is a complete understatement of the hollowing realities of graft on nation-building.
Therefore, all over the world, citizens are rising in protest against governments that are perceived as corrupt. Corruption poses an enormous obstacle to economic and social development and the global goal of ending extreme poverty by 2030 (as projected by the World Bank). We must therefore do more. We must act quickly and effectively to deal with this scourge.
To a varying degree, corruption exists in almost all countries. However, the degree to which it impacts the common people’s lives and increases poverty is directly proportional to the level of this scourge and how widespread it is in society.
A country’s development depends on how much of the States resources are lost to corruption.
In developed countries, where corruption is limited to a small number of projects and where common people do not encounter it on a daily basis, the adverse impact tends to be marginal and does not jeopardize the welfare of its people.
In contrast, a poor country like Sierra Leone, where each borrowed dollar and allocated Leone must be spent to uplift the people from poverty, it has a significant impact. Various studies, including the TRC, list corruption and lack of transparency as the two core reasons that have hampered the country’s drive for development.
However, these indices do not convey the terrible pain and sufferings that the brutal practice of corruption has caused our generation and generations yet unborn.
Many people believe that much of the development and significant portions of the operations allocations are lost due to bribery and other related illegal and unethical activities. The extreme poverty and lack of infrastructure and basic services is fuelled by bribery, influence peddling, extortion, and abuse of power; all offences under the Anti-Corruption Act 2008.
It is a widely held view that corruption, in Sierra Leone, is widespread, systematic, and that it is entrenched at all levels of government.
We continue to lose huge percentage of our budget to corruption, especially in procurement; excluding the subsequent costs of corruption in the implementation and maintenance stages of projects.
Important business publications such as the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report, have consistently pointed out that corruption is hindering doing business in Sierra Leone. This reputational cost will continue to drive away investors if nothing is done now.
But corruption is bound to flourish in a culture that encourages display of affluence without any regard as to how the wealth has been obtained. Lack of accountability plays a crucial role in the promotion of bribery and resistance to any form of reform.
By its very nature, corruption can undermine the efforts of governments to bring ‘prosperity’ to their countries; promoting the breakdown of law and order, leading to violent conflicts, poverty, and underdevelopment.
Our generation is that generation that has witnessed this and lives in it. Even more sad, the fact that some members of our generation have played pivotal role in the realization of the very corrupt state we find ourselves in. What a shame!! Do we want to leave our country the way we met it?
Corruption lowers the GDP of countries. Dreher and Herzfeld (2005) estimate that an increase in corruption by about one point reduces GDP growth by 0.13 percentage points; and GDP per capita by US$425. Evidently, corruption damages the economy of states, its political system, processes and institutions.
This is why, globally, fighting corruption has moved to the forefront of all national and international development dialogues.
In 1996, the then-President of the World Bank, James D. Wolfensohn, declared that, for developing countries to achieve growth and poverty reduction, “we need to deal with the cancer of corruption.”
There is a new thinking – an international recognition – that an effective campaign against corruption reduces poverty, prevents conflict, protects the environment, promotes economic prosperity, and guarantees the enjoyment of political and social stability.
Given the reality, our generation has witnessed corruption of catastrophic proportions – and genocidal ramifications. It has undermined our country’s growth and prosperity twice over.
Our generation is that generation that has witnessed and experienced the effect of a few people siphoning away resources from their intended purposes for personal interests; we have seen our people die en-masse from preventable and curable diseases, poverty, and war on a scale that shocks the conscience of the world.
Our generation is that generation that has witnessed vaccines being diverted, school supplies not delivered, cosmetic constructions, and worst of all, Ebola.
We have hungry stomachs everywhere standing on fertile soils. We suffer from want amidst plenty.
In my recent travels around the country, I witnessed and experienced, first hand, the corrosive impact of corruption on the lives of the poor and the resulting sharp decline of trust that citizens have for the political class and elites.
Make no mistake, I retuned, very determined to do something about this. Like I stated in my well-publicized reply to my friend Paul Conteh when he questioned why I took this job, the war has been declared; and it is winnable.
There is now a serious siege around the citadel of corruption and the assault of the forces against it has now firmly begun. From Freetown to Koindu, from Kambia to Bonthe, the war bells have been sounded and there can be neither retreat nor surrender.
The goal is to put our country on a sustained trajectory of good governance. Good governance is a necessary and sufficient condition to effectively combat corruption.
In fact, states that have proved very effective in the fight against corruption have scored highest in good governance indicators.
To my mind, good governance is the unhindered operation of the rule of law, the effective prevention of corruption, respect for separation of powers, the promotion of fundamental human rights and crucially, the independence of the judiciary to give meaning to the role (not “rule”) of law.
The TRC Report lists instruments of good governance as follows: Equitable laws, efficient institutions, due processes, and humane practices that lead to such desired ends as security, justice, enhanced livelihoods, and democratic participation.
It is my settled view that democratic good governance would only be actualized when institutions are made the cornerstone of governance.
So, my approach to the fight against corruption – Radical Transparency Drive– constitutes a comprehensive method of fighting corruption, which shall focus on eight pillars: Public awareness, anti-corruptions strategies, public participation, ‘watchdog’ agencies, the judiciary, the media, the private sector, and international cooperation.
It is my view that institutions are central to the wealth and poverty of nations. More than geography, weather, technology, or culture, institutions constitute the basic strategic foundations and proximate determinants of economic, social, and political transformation in the developing world.
For me, this interface, should involve, institutional inter-chemistry between the public, private, and community sectors. These strategic foundations will provide the bedrock for facilitating collaborative and participatory policy decision-making and enhancing the effectiveness, responsiveness, and resilience of the state in fragile political systems like ours.
The right nexuses between national institutions of governance and human-will to change their own story with the determination to transform it, accounts for the remarkable transformation of countries like Singapore and Malaysia from little more than fishing villages in the 1960s to industrial metropolis and economic gateways to the Asia-Pacific sub-region today.
The ACC, as part of its systems and processes review, shall work with MDAs to figure out the right configuration for our institutions to make them more viable as the main pillar of our fight against corruption.
Within the matrix of what I call “Radical Transparency Drive” there is no going backward. We must all ensure that greater transparency drives the prevention and uncovering of corruption in Sierra Leone.
In this vein, I call to action the Public Officers of this country, Civil Society; I call to action the Private Sector and the International Community to a new direction that draws on citizens’ demands for transparency and accountability, a direction that draws on all partners and available tools.
Radical Transparency Drive will inject urgency, speed and accuracy in corruption control. I call on us to commit to use this transparency to fight corruption more effectively.
Business cannot be as usual. Going forward, I shall push for more information and greater transparency involving public funds. We must now ensure the right amount of money reaches the right people on time, transparently and with accountability. We must all stand ready for this new trajectory.
Now is the time to turn aspirations into action. When we say ‘zero Tolerance’ for corruption, now is the time for us to demonstrate same.
Corruption is the urgency of now, and the emergency of Sierra Leone. As a nation, our generation must take collective action against the cancer of corruption. Now is the time to stand up and be counted.
Now is the time for our generation to save the soul of our nation. Let us all be a one-man/woman statement of transparency and accountability. We have to do this together or perish individually.
Francis Ben Kaifala, Commissioner of Sierra Leone’s Anti-Corruption Commission, speaking at the National Governance Symposium 2018, organized by the Institute for Good Governance.