Sierra Leone Telegraph: 28 June 2018:
In less than twenty-four hours of swearing-in the country’s newly appointed head of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), the president of Sierra Leone – Julius Maada Bio has wasted no time in submitting his asset declaration form to the new ACC Commissioner – Francis Ben Kaifala.
Declaring his personal assets at 10am today, Thursday 28 June 2018, at State House, Freetown, president Bio reminded all public officials of their duty, as he leads by example.
He said: “Every public officer like me is compelled by law to declare their assets. But beside that, I want to lead by example and ensure that it is done within the stipulated time. As President, I think it is good to lead by example. I hope others will follow”.
President Julius Maada Bio has declared his assets in accordance with Section 119 (1) of the ACC Act of 2008, which states that: “Every public officer shall, within three months of becoming a public officer, deposit with the Commission a sworn declaration of his income, assets and liabilities and therefore not later than 31st March in each succeeding year that he is a public officer, deposit further declarations of his income, assets and liabilities and also while leaving office”.
Responding to today’s declaration of assets by the president, the newly appointed ACC Commissioner who has only been in office in less than twenty-four hours, said it was good that President Bio took the move in setting the stage for the fight against corruption, as he thanked the president for leading by example.
He said that today’s declaration will set the stage for accountability and public integrity in Sierra Leone.
The ACC Czar is calling on other public officials to follow the example of president Bio in declaring their assets, assuring them that the commission would uphold confidentiality of the declaration as mandated by Section 119(3) of the Act.
The confidentiality clause states that: “Subject to this Act, the Commissioner, Deputy Commissioner, Directors and other persons having official duties under this Act, or being employed in the administration of this Act, shall deal with all documents and information, and all other matters relating to a declaration under this Part, as secret and confidential except where a particular declaration or record is required to be produced for the purpose of or in connection with any court proceedings against or inquiry in respect of a declarant under this Act or before a commission of inquiry.”
But Anti-Corruption campaigners that have been campaigning for the confidentiality clause to be expunged from the Act, will today be disappointed that president Bio has not voluntarily led by example to promote transparency, accountability, probity, and a new politics of openness, by publicly declaring the value of his personal assets.
Earlier today, expectations of a new form of politics was high, when Umaru Fofanah reported that “a spokesman for the government says President Bio will likely follow in the footsteps of Liberia’s former president Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and make his (declaration) public”.
Such missed opportunity can only raise questions about the president’s commitment to tackling corruption in Sierra Leone.
Speaking to the editor of the Sierra Leone Telegraph after his appointment as head of the ACC, Francis Ben Kaifala said that he will be working towards changing the law, so that public officials will be required to publicly declare the value of their total assets every year.
Sierra Leone is classed as one of the most corrupt nations in Africa, and not surprisingly among the poorest countries in the world. Poverty in Sierra Leone is a direct result of massive corruption in public office, which is costing the government of Sierra Leone over One Billion Dollars in lost revenue every year.
This is the challenge now facing the new Anti-Corruption Czar – Francis Ben Kaifala, whose commitment to fighting corruption has been well publicised.