John Baimba Sesay
Sierra Leone Telegraph: 2 August 2015
In 2007, President Ernest Koroma came to power with a determined mindset to fight corruption. He then went on to enact one of the tightest Anti-corruption laws in the sub- region – the Anti-Corruption Act of 2008. (Photo: Joseph Kamara).
This law gives complete prosecutorial powers to the commission. Since then and to date, much has happened.
A number of state officials have not only been prosecuted and found guilty, but there also has been a high level of public awareness about corruption and government’s efforts in minimizing, if not eradicating it.
Abdul Tejan-Cole, who later resigned his position as Commissioner, played an exceptional role during his tenure. But thanks to the political will that was, and still being provided by the president, the fight against corruption continues.
The current Commissioner Joseph Kamara has been in the job for five years. In May 2014, during a conversation, Kamara spoke of the “challenges by virtue of the nature of this job”.
He then went on to say that; “But most certainly, I’ve enjoyed it amidst the challenges… this job like many others, the top is always lonely. It is lonelier in this particularly job because you’ve got to investigate friends, and Sierra Leone being a small country, you create enemies in the process – especially if you are a bold Commissioner…”
Heading an institution like the ACC, your work in chasing people for corruption, makes you appear as an enemy within.
President Koroma has recently reappointed Joseph Kamara for another term of five years as the AC Commissioner. This is a show of confidence and trust by the president, and one is hopeful, JFK will bring more laurels and results to the president.
That said, I can only join others in congratulating him and wishing him success in the next five years to come.
Joseph Kamara’s five years as Head of the Commission should be commended as they are years of great success. So too, should the president be commended for his determination in this drive.
Under Kamara’s stewardship, and for the first time in the history of the Commission, we have witnessed people being charged to court on offences of ‘unexplained wealth’ and were found guilty.
Regional ACC offices have been strengthened, with District Coordinators taking the fight to their respective districts. District Coordinators now serve as focal points and help in dealing with NGO issues, monitor government contracts and surface rent issues, give feedback to the Regional Offices and then down to Freetown. Today, the commission also prosecutes at the regional level.
In terms of organisational systems review, “it is not just a representative of what I would refer to as Prosecutorial Gladiators”, Kamara said.
“We go there and look at the systems, we look at what they are doing and how efficient and effective they are. We benchmark them from an Anti Corruption perspective and at the end of the day we have the civil society that gives support and do monitoring and then we prepare reports on what our findings are. Most of these reports have been qualitative and supportive to the work of ministries.”
But this extension of JFK’s employment contract by President Koroma is another challenge thrown at him. There is strong determination on the presidency to leave a legacy of success when it comes to tackling graft.
But it takes the collective efforts of those at the ACC and the country at large for this to be achieved. Challenges, there are, but when compared to where we came from, much has been achieved by the government.
The next five years should definitely see robust institutional collaboration, and especially between the commission and the justice system. This relationship should be as strong and supportive of each other.
Joseph Kamara agreed, “It has been a relationship of a mixed bag because there are times…..; we believe we have got good support and good judgment.”
He believed that “the level of jurisprudence now in terms of corruption cases has heightened within the country. But we also have difficult moment when we have cases that we believe strongly in the quality of evidence that we presented and the court could not accept that. But of course again, we always respect the integrity of the process. Sometimes we take it well, some other times, we feel very disappointed.” (Photo: Joseph Kamara – left, welcoming John Baimba Sesay).
Another five years on a job where you make few or no friends, where you are seen as an enemy by the perpetrators of corrupt practices. But one thing JFK should know is that he has been given another challenge, and the will of the people of Sierra Leone is that he shall continue to meet the expectations of the country, government and president.
In May, 2014, I sat in front of Joseph Fitzgerald Kamara in his office, for an exclusive interview to discuss his fight against graft. And five years on, he is still the ACC Commissioner and will now continue to serve until 2020.
Congratulations as you go into five more years of what you once rightly called a “lonelier” job.