Sierra Leone Telegraph: 28 June 2018:
Yesterday, Wednesday 27 June 2018, lawyer Francis Ben-Kaifala, was approved by Sierra Leone’s parliament after a debate by MPs, following the recommendation of the Committee responsible for scrutinising all public appointments.
It was not all plain sailing in parliament though, as leaders of two opposition parties – the APC and NGC distanced themselves from the decision of the Committee to recommend the approval of Kaifala.
But, as one MP puts it after Kaifala’s approval by parliament: “Good cream always rise to the top – and so did lawyer Kaifala with his vast legal experience and qualifications”.
And shortly after MPs approved his appointment as the country’s latest Commissioner of the Anti- Corruption Commission (ACC), Kaifala took his oath of office in front of the President – Julius Maada Bio, in accordance with Section 3(1)a of the Anti-Corruption Commission Act.
Lawyer Francis Ben Kaifala thanked President Bio for the opportunity to serve the country. He said the confidence reposed in him was something he would take very seriously, adding that one of the main causes of economic suffering in the country was corruption. He said there must be a change of mindset in society, so as to eradicate corruption.
“Your Excellency, it is indeed an honour to be given such an opportunity to help in the transformation of our country under your New Direction. Our corruption record is an abysmal one that needs urgent attention.
“As head of the ACC, I will do my best to ensure that we reduce corruption in the country and will use my appointment to see how we can reduce the impact of corruption in our society. Our position in the index is unacceptable. The commission under my leadership will work hard to reposition ourselves in the indices that will take us off embarrassment,” Kaifala assured the president.
President Bio congratulated the commissioner on the assumption of his new role. He said corruption was not only a governance problem, but a national security concern that should be dealt with seriously.
He added that: “Your task ahead is a tough one and I hope you are ready to face it. There is a huge reputational problem as a result of being where we are in the corruption index, which even scares away investment from the country.
“You must show all your expertise in combating this menace. As you start the journey, let me assure you of my support and wish you the very best,” said president Bio.
Prior to his appointment, Kaifala had served as managing partner of Kaifala, Kanneh and Associates Law firm, after practicing law at the top of the profession for over ten years.
A bilingual Lawyer, who writes and speaks both English and French fluently, Kaifala has vast experience in Corporate and Commercial Litigation, and practices in the Superior Courts of Judicature of Sierra Leone and has appeared in several high profile cases in the High Court, the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court where he left excellent records of performance.
During the appointment approval debate which took place earlier in parliament, the Presiding Speaker of the Parliament of Sierra Leone, Hon. Segepoh Solomon Thomas urged Kaifala “to take necessary actions within two weeks against corrupt practices in the country”.
Seconding the motion to approve his appointment, Hon. Veronica K. Sesay of SLPP recounted a number of praises heaped on the presidential nominee by MPs constituting the Committee on Appointments and the Public Service in respect of his qualification and competence, notwithstanding some administrative lapses.
She referred to Kaifala as “a young man who is ripe and fit for purpose”, whilst urging the lawyer to be strong and resilient in his pursuits to hunt and halt corrupt practices in the country.
She said that “corruption is the cankerworm that is eating deep into the development fabric of Sierra Leone”.
Recalling President Bio’s commitment to fight and kick corruption out of the country, she encouraged Mr. Kaifala to pursue corruption related acts by medical practitioners, the police and even Members of Parliament.
Hon. Hindolo M. Gevao of the SLPP commended President Bio for nominating Mr. Kaifala, whom he said he has known for the past ten years as “corrupt-free and apolitical”.
He said that the “nominee is over-qualified and had practiced law for over ten years unblemished, with huge managerial experience and regular payment of taxes”.
Addressing those that are questioning the president’s right to hire and fire, MP Gevao said that “President Bio is vested with the Executive Authority to constitute offices, appoint, and terminate persons so appointed at will, and that in cases of inconsistencies, the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone takes precedence”.
He said that “Mr. Kaifala is a fearless young man who confronts corrupt practices head-on,” whilst pointing to the fact that “his credentials have been acclaimed by the opposition leaders – Hon. Chernor Bah and Hon. Kandeh Yumkella, respectively”.
MP Emilia Loloh Tongi, an Independent MP from Kailahun, described Mr. Kaifala as “over-qualified” for the job. Advising the nominee in his strides against corruption, she referred to “corruption as being cancerous and incurable, but with President Bio’s prescription of fighting corruption with Mr. Kaifala, then there is light at the end of the tunnel”.
She called on Kaifala to prosecute medical, police, and other forms of corruption, adding that such a fight is “dangerous and difficult at the moment”.
MP Quintin Salia-Konneh, another Independent MP from Kailahun said that “this is the first time Sierra Leone is having an Anti-Corruption Commissioner that is corrupt-free”, whilst encouraging MPs “to focus on country and not political parties”.
Speaking about the qualification of Kaifala, he called on MPs to embrace and support him to succeed in his efforts to fight corruption in the country.
The Leader of the APC opposition – Chernor Bah, disclaimed and disassociated the APC from the Seventh Report of the Committee on Appointments and the Public Service, describing it as “purported, inconclusive and without unanimity”.
He said that “the appointment debate had been skewed, and that nobody is contending the capacity and competence of the nominee; save for procedural breaches”. He also said that “they are not questioning the conduct of the President and that there is no inconsistency between the ACC Act and that of the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone”.
Concluding the approval debate, MP Mathew Sahr Nyuma of the SLPP and Acting Leader of Government Business, said that “this is the time to fight corruption with action, rather than words”.
He described Mr. Kaifala as “corrupt-free” and that his fight against corruption had begun since he became a lawyer, whilst decrying the attitude of the former head of the ACC towards the fight against corruption.
MP Mathew Sahr Nyuma cited: “abrogation of the law as another form of corruption,” referring to those who unlawfully received payment from the Consolidated Revenue Fund, less than a year to the conduct of General Elections.
Calling on parliament to fight corruption as the nation did to Ebola, he said “administrative challenges should not bar MPs from presenting Kaifala for approval”.
After what many observers described as a good-natured approval debate by MPs, lawyer Kaifala later took his oath of office at State House, where he was congratulated by president Julius Maada Bio and reminded of the difficult but necessary task ahead – to tackle corruption in Sierra Leone head on.