Milton Margai: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 9 August 2020:
Corruption is public enemy number one in Sierra Leone. It is responsible for the country’s underdevelopment. Hence, there is need to support those at the forefront of the war against corruption.
According to Professor Lumumba (former head of the ACC in Kenya), “Corruption is such an enterprise that there’s no shortage of individuals who want to liquidate you and to eliminate you altogether.”
He said ‘those who have declared themselves to be in the forefront against corruption must know that they’re in the line of fire.’
Few weeks ago, I interviewed Sierra Leone’s ACC czar, Francis Ben Kaifala about the Chinese Rice Saga which was published by the Sierra Leone Telegraph.
I also spoke to Kaifala about the challenges he faces daily; what he enjoys most and the role of Sierra Leoneans in the fight against corruption. This is what he said:
Milton Margai: Since taking over as the ACC boss, what are the challenges you face on a daily basis?
Francis Ben Kaifala: “Many. With all the effort and sacrifice, we are targeted by the people on whose behalf we make decisions that we believe will optimize outcomes for the country. It is like they are waiting for us to fail. With 30 convictions and only 6 acquittals since I came into office, they lay more emphasis on those very few loses than the many successes.
Globally, every international index shows we are exponentially making progress with the fight against corruption – we are in the ivy league of the success in the fight against corruption. Yet it seems our efforts are not as appreciated as we would expect.
It is demoralizing and frankly cynical. But we will continue to do our best to succeed even in the midst of the great personal toll on us and our families with little resources and manpower support. We however acknowledge the support of many other well-meaning Sierra Leoneans.
MM: What do you enjoy most about the job?
FBK: Strategizing and precisely deploying strategies and tactics that lead to the many exploits that produce results amidst the doubts and cynicism. It shows that with determination we can achieve a lot as a country and people to change our story.
Taking the country from a failing position of 49% in the MCC Control of Scorecard to 79%; To pass the MCC Score back to back two years in a row for the first time; helping the country move 11 places in the Transparency International Index from 131 in 2017 to 119 currently and to score the highest score ever; to move government effort in the fight against corruption from 43% to 66% currently; to move citizens confidence in the ACC from 15% in 2017 to 92% currently; for us to experience upward mobility in almost every global and local index and survey; that is something to enjoy about this work; restore the highest ever confidence in the ACC and lead its staff to reach their zenith peak in their 19 year effort and campaign against corruption; to have a near perfect conviction rate; to recover nearly 25 Billion Leones and return it to the people for the provision of social services; to build and watch the scorpion squad show the world how to fight corruption with precision and bring the corrupt to their knees-day in-day-out; to be the example to Africa on how to successfully fight corruption – measurable results that silent the cynics and critics and do it for country.
I feel good knowing that the promise I made to help the President launder the image of the country to a fierce but fair anticorruption fight is bringing excellent results in just two years with three to go.
MM: What’s the role of Sierra Leoneans in the fight against corruption?
FBK: To support the ACC – report corruption, be willing to be witnesses, not engage in corruption themselves. When they see something corrupt, they say something to correct it. They are the supply-side. If they do not engage in corruption, those in positions (the demand-side) would find substitutes to getting money or favour and avoid corruption. The people are a major factor.
MM: What is your message to the people of Sierra Leone?
FBK: When you see something corrupt, say and do something. Help us succeed in controlling corruption. We can only prosper as a country if we control and subdue corruption.
MM: If you were to add a line to a song on corruption in Sierra Leone, what would that line be?
FBK: The most important weapon a man can take into battle is the reason why. My reason is clear – to defeat corruption for Sierra Leone to take its place among countries that are called great which has eluded it since independence to date. I will fight and succeed against corruption no matter what is thrown at me or I die trying.