Sierra Leone Telegraph: 9 December 2019:
Today is being commemorated all over the world as the UN-declared Anti-Corruption Day, which is celebrated every year on 9th of December.
Sierra Leone, more than most countries on the continent of Africa has a lot to celebrate today, after eighteen months of battle against corruption by the SLPP government which came into power after winning elections in March 2018.
In that battle against corruption, the country has seen a big fall in corruption, as the country’s anti-graft agency – the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) led by Francis Ben Kaifala, fearlessly pursues former senior government officials and public sector workers, who for far too long, have made a career and a lifestyle out of public funds, bribery, abuse of office and illegal earnings.
Sierra Leone is one of the poorest countries in the world, despite having hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of natural resources.
It is estimated that over $500 million is lost to corruption and graft every year in Sierra Leone, causing massive suffering for millions of citizens through illiteracy, poor healthcare, lack of access to clean drinking water and electricity, poor housing conditions and sanitation, malnutrition, unemployment and poverty.
Pregnant women and young babies are dying senselessly in Sierra Leone in their thousands every year, because of corruption.
Less than 50% of all adults in the country will live to see their 60th birthday, due to poverty and poor healthcare.
Less than 30% of all young people finishing college or university will find work to earn a living – 70% of youths are chronically unemployed or unemployable.
Sierra Leone – once regarded as the Athens of West Africa for its brilliant education institutions, is now at the bottom of the continent’s literacy levels ranking, with less than 40% of people able to read and write., making the country less attractive for big investments in establishing high-value added, knowledge intensive industries.
Successive governments have in the past two decades failed to invest in national development infrastructure – education, healthcare, electricity and water supply, as billions of dollars are wasted through inept governance, poor planning and prioritisation, as well as misappropriation of funds.
But after winning last year’s elections, president Julius Maada Bio promised to take the fight against corruption to corrupt public officials that are destroying the country’s potential to become one of the most developed countries in Africa.
He has since established commissions of inquiry into the misuse of public funds and public office for personal gain by former government ministers and officials – including past president and vice president.
Although the commissions are still sitting and taking evidence, so far tens of millions of dollars of unexplained wealth have been identified – and there is hope for these to be recovered and paid into the public purse.
The Anti-Corruption Commission led by Francis Ben Kaifala, has recovered millions of dollars from corrupt public officials through out of court settlements.
(Photo: Kaifala handing over recovered stolen funds to president Koroma at State House).
But there are still challenges in the fight against corruption, especially those posed by current laws.
In order to strengthen the powers of the Anti-Corruption Commission, president Bio has signed new laws which came into effect last week – the Anti-Corruption Amendment Act 2019.
If nothing else is working in Sierra Leone right now, one thing that must be said is that there is a growing sense across the country of the importance of fighting and winning the battle against corruption.
And today, the 9th of December 2019, president Bio has rekindled his message to the people of Sierra Leone – for the battle against corruption to continue.
This is what he said in his national broadcast this morning: