Moris I. Kanteh: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 2nd November 2019:
The latest Millennium Corporation Challenge (MCC) 2020 Scorecard report published on Friday, 1st November 2019, has seen Sierra Leone register an extraordinary 79% out of a possible 100%. It is the biggest ever rating in the country’s effort in controlling corruption, since the establishment of the Anti-Corruption Commission some 19 Years ago, and the first back to back pass since the rating began.
The MCC Control of Corruption Scorecard, which is the brainchild of the American government, was established in 2004 for the Recognition and Rewarding of low-income countries making substantial efforts towards ending poverty and achieving economic growth.
This recent MCC publication is the Seventh Edition; and is calculated by the World Governance Indicators– World Bank. The period reviewed on this year’s scorecard is November 2018- November 2019.
Control of Corruption Indicator – an index of surveys and expert assessments that rate countries on their abilities to reduce: “grand corruption” in the political arena; the frequency of petty corruption; the effects of corruption on the business environment; the tendency of elites and private interests to engage in “state capture”; the strength and effectiveness of a country’s policy and institutional framework to prevent and combat corruption; among other things, occupies a prominent place among the indicators that makes up the scorecard.
Last year, Sierra Leone came from a failing position of 49% in 2017 to score a record-breaking 71% for Corruption Control — which massively surpassed the 10-year Global Average Score for Developing Countries. The Control of Corruption score compares Sierra Leone’s relative performance to other countries in the Lower Income Category which includes Countries like Liberia and Ethiopia.
This year’s exponential improvement on last year’s score, which is consistent with improvements in other Perception Indexes like the Transparency International Afro-barometer Perception Survey, which placed Sierra Leone 3rd in Africa on Citizen’s Perception in our national efforts to clamp down on graft, unarguably justifies the ongoing Revolutionary and Radical Transparency Approach by the ACC in leading the fight against corruption that was declared by President Julius Maada Bio, which the Francis Ben Kaifala led ACC is leading; and positions the country on an irreversible path to sustainably control corruption; and sets a new trajectory for good governance and development.
In the just published scorecard, Sierra Leone is one of the top ten performers in the Lower Income countries.
In the Mano River Union (Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia and Cote d’Ivoire), Sierra Leone is the best performer for this year, with an increase from 71% to 79% (8 percentage points). The improvement in the score is actually 11.3 percent (8÷71)×100) higher than last year (2018).
Of the 16 sub sources that make up the control of corruption indicator, there were improvements in seven (7) and a decline in one (1).
Since Sierra Leone became compact eligible in 2012, this is the first time the country has passed the Control of Corruption twice in a row; and has made the country compact eligible this year and positions it to win a whooping Six Hundred Million Dollars ($600,000,000) in contracts.
Several innovative approaches incorporated by the Anti-Corruption Commission – some of which are highlighted below – coupled with the dogged patriotism, determination and sense of common purpose of the staff of the ACC in the fight against corruption, the enormous Presidential/political will and the support of the people have necessitated this ground-breaking progress:
Non-Conviction Asset Based Recovery
Under the Non-Conviction Asset Based Asset Recovery, the Anti-Corruption Commission has recovered a little over Eighteen Billion Leones (close to $ 2 Million) in the past 18 months alone – which is more than total of what the Commission had recovered throughout the past 18 years of its existence. This money had been presented to President Bio, who has made a firm commitment to using the said funds to facilitate the construction of the country’s first ever diagnostic centre.
Additionally, this strategy has saved the Commission from inundating the courts with corruption cases, some of which have been before the courts for several months and years (the 50th Independence Anniversary corruption case, for example, has taken eight years without judgment).
Comparatively, despite the close to 100% conviction rate in courts in 2018 – having won all the cases brought before the courts in the past 18 months, bar the SLFA ruling which is currently awaiting hearings from the appeal filed in by the Commission, the total fine recorded for 2018 is just about Le 138 (Thirty-Eight Million Leones) which is less than 5% of the sums recovered from settlement agreements made out of court with those who have admitted to have misappropriated public funds and agreed with the Commission to pay back in full, otherwise referred to as Non-Conviction Asset-Based Recovery.
It would be understandable if custodial sentences were being imposed, but that stands at zero for 2018. An overwhelming majority of Sierra Leoneans thus welcome this practical strategy as a tool to compliment efforts in court – this claim backed by gains made in previous perception surveys that gauges the levels of endorsement from citizens on the fight against corruption, and International Approval – like the just published MCC Scorecard. This strategy is among the strongest in the World for tackling corruption.
The Commission has conducted extensive Systems and Processes Reviews across different Ministries, Departments and Agencies with a view to identifying corruption vulnerabilities and later recommending policies to address or pin those existing loopholes.
For instance, in February 2019, the Prevention Department of the ACC did a comprehensive review on the health sector and published a report titled: “Strengthening Integrity in the Management of Drugs and Other Medical and Related Services in Government Medical Facilities”.
The Commission also recently launched a report titled ‘Review of Practices and Procedures of the Freetown City Council” which highlighted several systems weaknesses at the Council, covering the period 2015 to 2018. Key in these reports is recommendations to address these corruption vulnerabilities.
Monitoring of the implementation of these recommendations is done by the Commission and enforcement measures instituted on defaulting institutions – as mandated in Section 8 of the Anti-Corruption Act of 2008 which requires public bodies to comply with the instructions of the Commission. Review of Practices and Procedures of other MDA’s is currently ongoing with a view to maintain transparency at a higher level.
Additionally, extensive Public Education and Outreach measures have been instituted by the ACC within the past 18 months to teach the public on the evils of corruption and to enlist the necessary support in the effort to defeating the scourge.
In December 2018, the ACC brought in the highly respected African and Global Anti-graft Crusader, Professor P.L.O Lumumba who delivered a resounding Public Lecture that was met by great aplomb by thousands of citizens at the Adjai Crowther Amphitheatre at Fourah Bay College. All these have made corruption awareness and perception to take center stage in citizens’ discourses and engagements on governance with tremendous results on their perception.
The Commission remains highly involved in its court led approach as a tool to ensuring corruption control. A Special division of the High Court has been established to try corruption cases and five dedicated judges have been designated to hear and speedily dispose of corruption cases. Conviction rates remain high and there are currently over 40 active corruption cases in court. The judiciary has started showing the “right posture” towards handling corruption cases with heftier fines, custodial sentences and speed now consistently being injected in corruption cases.
Innovative Strategies and Approach
The Fourth Generation National Anti-Corruption Strategy recently launched by the Honourable Vice President of Sierra Leone, Dr. Mohammed Juldeh Jalloh, places enforcement of the Laws in the Anti-Corruption Act – which are among the strongest in the World – at the heart of the operation of the Commission for the next four years (2018-2024). An overwhelming majority of Sierra Leoneans now believe that the stage is set for the rebirth of our nation.
Consistent with Section 10 of the Anti-Corruption Act of 2008, the ACC has established several partnerships with various government institutions, and civil society organizations. For example, in July 2019, the ACC signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Office of the Ombudsman to partner together in selected areas that border on the mandate of both institutions. The Commission also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with CHRDI– a Civil Society Organizations.
The partnership will focus on developing a private sector Bill for corruption. In a bid to bringing young people along in the fight, the ACC is also partnering with Youth Against Corruption, and Chosen Generation Sierra Leone – both youth led civil society organizations engaged in massive public education drive in the fight against corruption.
In April 2019, the Commission also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) in that will see both institutions work together in combating financial crimes.
In August 2019, the ACC also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Public Sector Reform Unit. The two institutions will collaboratively work together in enhancing integrity and good governance through public sector reforms.
On Thursday 31st October 2019, the Sierra Leone Parliament passed the Anti-Corruption Amendment Act 2019. As stated in a press release by the Commission, “the Amendment Act provides for, among other things, increased penalties for offences under the Act; strengthens protection for witnesses and whistle-blowers; provides the ACC with alternatives to prosecution; widens the scope of corruption to include that the accused ‘offered’, ‘solicited’, ‘obtained’ or ‘received’ in addition to ‘gave and accepted’ an advantage; reduces the year-long requirement that persons who cease to be public officers have to file a declaration in respect of their assets; provides for administrative sanctions for public officers who fail to submit their asset declaration forms or knowingly record false, inaccurate or misleading information in the forms; introduces trial of those accused of corruption in absentia; limits the scope of public officer to declare their assets and imposes sanctions for non-compliance; and vests in the ACC Commissioner power to direct that contracts with elements of corruption in their processing may not be proceeded with after agreement with the National Public Procurement Authority.”
For a country once replete with the tales of rampant and unabated corruption, which has been the biggest inhibiting factor to poverty alleviation; and resultantly placed us at the bottom of every serious developmental index, thereby leading the citizenry to lose hope in the ability of successive governments to deliver on their basic obligation of developing the country and improving citizens’ lives, our ground-breaking progress in this recently published MCC Scorecard for the Control of Corruption, coupled with our unprecedented National resolve to clamp down on graft — which is pivotal to the New Direction Agenda of the President Brig. Rtd. Julius Maada Bio, a President knitted with love and patriotism in his elements —continues to inspire “New Hope” among citizens and Africa as a whole; and sets the country on the right trajectory towards economic and social resuscitation.
The country is also rapidly gaining respectability amongst the community of Nations as one determined to break away from the past and reinvent itself. In all, the Commission has become that real spectre of hope and transformation and exemplary leadership for the country and Africa.
The Young and Vibrant Commissioner leading the fight, against all odds, continues to inspire confidence and support from all sections; and it is believed that Sierra Leone will continue to trailblaze in the fight against corruption with spectacular results for the country as a whole. What began fourteen months ago as an initial stream of progress in the fight against corruption, is now rapidly transforming to a flood of improvements and successes for Sierra Leone.
About the author
Mory I Kante works in the Public Relations Unit of the Anti-Corruption Commission.