Anti-Corruption Czar speaks about the impact of corruption in Sierra Leone

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.

Author:

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.

6 Comments

  1. These are some of the ingredient that can strengthen the fight against corruption:

    1, The Anti-Corruption must be independent ( no Political strings)
    2, The Judiciary must be independent ( no political strings)
    3, the Police must be independent ( no Political strings)

    When this happens there will be room for fairness, transparency and justice in the country.

    Mind you bad Politicians are in the habit of using the Police to harass and intimidate people. At the end of the day, the Police are to be blamed as a corrupt force, while the Politicians who give the orders are sitting there without any blame, same as the judiciary.

    A picture of a Rolls Royce is making the rounds on Social Media at the Queen Elizabeth Quay with lots of questions about the owner. If this had happened in a country with transparency and accountabilities system, citizens would have gone to ask about the ownership of the car.

    What is happening now, the opposition Politicians are pointing fingers at the government, while the government officers are saying they don’t have knowledge about the car. Maybe the car is owned by a businessman, who knows.

    It is because our system lacks transparent and accountability that is why there is so much doubt about the ownership of this car. Some People might have the determination to fight corruption, but oh ya bad Politics is our Kaka Worm. May God Help Salone.

  2. Keep the momentum going steadily Mr Ant-corruption commissioner. Make your priorities on well thought actions in order to ensure the continuity of the process, no need for witch hunting, neither creating a perception of targeting opponents.

    Leave no sacred cow to get away with impunity. The naked corruption practices uncovered by the GTT report must be addressed assiduously.

    The aim should be to recover monies robbed from the state and the people of Sierra Leone. Monies needed for implementing development programmes across the country, in order to better the living standard of the citizens.

  3. Kudos to the Anti-Corruption Commissioner for vigorously taking up the fight against corruption which continues to sap the energy of our people.

    It is such an embarrassment when we see our leaders begging for alms, while we sit on top of so much wealth that if prudently managed for the benefit of the people will quickly lift them up from poverty.

    Since corruption has been so entrenched within society such that there is a whole generation that knows nothing but corruption, I believe one important aspect of the fight should be focused on education. Curriculum should be developed that would focus on identifying corruption and corrupt practices including its negative impact on society.

    This should be taught as a mandatory course in all secondary schools. Doing this, will help bring awareness to the next generation of decision makers who will have to lead the country forward.

  4. Keep on pressing Czar Kaifala. The sky is your limit and we are with you in thick and thin. Your determination is surely a caution to those in power now and those yet to come. No more “business as usual.”

    One would expect any patriotic Sierra Leonean to be on board. Is KKY truly on onboard even though he is not the author of this initiative? I am yet to read a statement of support from him in the fight against corruption and what he thinks of Bio’s initiatives to put our country on the world stage.

  5. You were corruptly elected or rather confirmed to office. How can that stigma be countered? The speaker of the house was corruptly elected. The jury are out on your sincerity to combat it. Your president took eighteen million to Ghana. We want those cash back.

    The Munda Rogers are now walking the streets of Sierra Leone with virtual impunity while it was confirmed he engineered the most expensive road in the world – Wilkinson road. The list goes on. The use of Civil Aviation Authority funds to finance your election campaign and so on and so forth.

  6. International Conspirators are the killer bed bugs of the chronic corruption in Sierra Leone and around the African world.
    2030 as a UN projection for Africa and Africans turn around is not insane but plainly sickening.

    Progressive Africans like our members of the “Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) of South Africa are demanding the total reowning of Africa’s economy and governance by directly managing our domestic and international affairs without third party misguided self serving exploitative agendas now or never.

    Mighty words of wisdom from a focused Commissioner. I am only at a lost that the the roles of “international conspirators and facilitators of corruption was never once indicated.

    In my critical and humble opinion, I do believe that at the heart of corruption in Sierra Leone and rest of the African world is the over sight of the huge, high handed, authoritative, buying and vindictive roles of the so-called developed nations or donor nations, CEO’S and shareholders of multinational corporations, the United Nations and its allies, the IMF, the World Bank and more importantly the so-called International Nongovernmental Organizations ( NGO’S) and their local founded civil societies cronies that goes under the red carpet unpunished.

    For millions and billions of corrupt money to be transferred to illegal offshore blind trust accounts by politicians, business and the educated, the very big horns that are painting Africa and Africans as the leaders of corruption are the very criminal wolves in sheep clothing directly and indirectly responsible as the front and center facilitators of the untold criminal corruptions and all on record.

    Lastly, will the Anti Corruption Commission do the following:

    1. Equally investigate the ” contracts and land deals entered into by all international conspirators?
    2. Are there whistle blower compensation and protection mandate?
    3. Are there any amnesty provisions for those who freely and willingly admit and submit information of their benefits and roles in enriching themselves through corruption?

    Your fearless leadership and determination to get to the heart of corruption in Sierra Leone will be unprecedented both nationally and internationally. But more importantly, if your mandate receives unpolluted and well meaning national and international collaborative support. Time in terms of relevance is on your side.

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