Francis Ben Kaifala faces parliamentary committee

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 27 June 2018:

The President of Sierra Leone’s Renaissance Movement and head of the law firm – Kaifala Kanneh & Co Chambers – Francis Ben Kaifala, was yesterday interviewed by the Parliamentary Committee on Appointments and the Public Service, for the position of Commissioner of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC).

The Committee which is chaired by the Deputy Leader of Government Business – Sahr Mathew Nyuma is made up of MPs representing all political parties in parliament, and was attended by the following members: Hon. Ibrahim Ben Kargbo, Hon. Emelia Tongi, Hon. Veronica Sesay, Hon. Chernor Bah,  Hon. Mathew Nyuma, Hon. Segepoh S. Thomas,  Hon. Kandeh Yumkella, Hon. Bashiru Silikie, Hon. Hassan Sesay, Hon. Amadu Kanu,  and Hon. Lahai Marah.

Although questions of parliamentary procedure were raised by members at the interview, there were no objections with regards the qualifications and competence of Francis Ben Kaifala, who was last week nominated by president Julius Maada Bio to head the country’s Anti-Corruption Commission.

Hon. Nyuma, Acting Chairman of the Committee, acknowledged those administrative challenges, and expressed satisfaction that Members of the Committee had agreed that the qualifications and competence of the proposed ACC Boss are not in contention.

He said that “there is no abrogation of the law, with regards to the appointment of the proposed ACC Boss by President Bio”.

He referred the press and the public to Section 53(3) and Section 171(15) of the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone, which alludes to the fact that the action of the President could not be inquired in court, and where any law is in conflict, to the extent of such inconsistency, the 1991 Constitution takes precedence.

The Leader of the opposition APC, Chernor Bah, said that “information was not solicited from the public prior to the interview, but that Kaifala’s qualifications and competencies are not in any way contentious”.

The Leader of NGC, Dr. Kandeh Yumkella said that “due to the credentials before him, Mr. Kelfala is qualified and competent, but that the process is characterized by procedural challenges”.

Notwithstanding those procedural comments, it is expected that a plenary session of the full House of parliament will meet later today to approve Kaifala’s nomination, subject to the recommendation of the Committee.

If approved, lawyer Francis Ben Kaifala will become the fourth individual to head what has become the most highly sensitive and politically difficult institution in Sierra Leone to manage.

Sierra Leone is classed as one of the most corrupt countries in Africa, with more than $2 billion estimated to be lost every year in government revenue.

Whilst the president, ministers and public officials are required by law to declare their assets annually, critics say that this legal requirement is being flouted by public officials and those elected to govern the country with impunity.

There are calls for the restructuring and strengthening of the ACC to improve transparency, accountability and probity.

President Julius Maada Bio has promised to fight corruption and says that by appointing a new Commissioner to head the ACC, he can begin to make the necessary changes that will see an increase in the number of top public officials present and past, investigated and brought to justice for corruption.

In a recent brief interview with lawyer Francis Ben Kaifala conducted by the editor of the Sierra Leone  Telegraph – Abdul Rashid Thomas (ART), Kaifala sounded optimistic about his approval. He spoke about his determination to take on the fight against corruption in Sierra Leone head on. This is what he said:

ART: What are your key priorities once you take up office?

Ben Kaifala: To restructure the ACC, get cases moving faster, strengthening prosecution, improve systems, improve investigations and intelligence.

ART: Hopefully we can also see ministers and officials of the current government promptly declaring their assets to inspire confidence in your restructured ACC?

Ben Kaifala: Yes. That is for sure. Asset declaration is going to be accelerated.

ART: I am conscious of the fact that the ACC Act does not make it mandatory for the public declaration of assets, and the reviewing of such declarations annually. Is this something that you would like to see changed?

Ben Kaifala: Yes, I am working on amendments.

If this interview is anything to go by, it would seem that the much-awaited culture change at the ACC will soon be delivered by a man many believe to be the most revolutionary to head the ACC.

Francis Ben Kaifala is an experienced and highly qualified lawyer, who has for many years championed the cause of social and economic justice in the country. He is the President of Sierra Leone’s Renaissance Movement.

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