By: Abdul Malik Bangura
Prior to 2018, the name Francis Ben Kaifala Esq. had been known for its radical approach in the court room, particularly in the fight against impunity and injustice in Sierra Leone. Of course, I saw it all. As a court reporter myself in 2015-16 at the time I was also acting Editor of Awareness Times Newspaper, FB Kaifala as he is called, would be the first person in court. Whenever he had case in court, no matter the level of persons involved, FB Kaifala would at times be in court even before his clients. All these are values of dedication, hard work and steadfastness.
The values he displayed as lawyer is why I was convinced that when he was appointed Commissioner of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), he was going to succeed in injecting new oxygen into the lungs of the Commission.
Of course, all have never been too rosy between Francis Ben Kaifala and myself. I have been a victim of his high moral values. Kaifala had prosecuted me and Dr. Sylvia Blyden in a defamation case brought then by Lawyer Yasmin Jusu Sheriff. What happened after becomes history. Hahaha.
The reason why I referenced my prosecution by Kaifala is that contrary to claims that the ACC Commissioner is compromising his office to protect his close friends and political allies, Ben Kaifala is a man of his own conviction. He has high moral values and will never compromise professionalism for anything. Not even with friends!!
This is why his transition at the ACC has placed the Commission at a regional enviable standard. Safe to say upon taking office in 2018, the erudite Commissioner first noticed that there were some policy gaps in the Anti-Corruption Act of 2008 which seemed more of a caricature to the fight against corruption, hence, the passing into law or the enactment of the 2019 Amendment Act. The new law has many Sections and Sub-Sections that were amended to secure a Special Division in the High Court of Sierra Leone for expeditious trial of corruption related cases/matters and to also having for the first time Examination Malpractice as Corruption Offence.
In Kaifala’s radical transition at the ACC, Sierra Leone in 2020, for the very first time became compact eligible with 83% score in the MCC Corruption control score card, also with the many efforts put in the fight against Corruption, Sierra Leone was ranked 115 in the recent (2021) Corruption Perception Index in the Transparency International survey from 130 in 2017.
Under the leadership of Commissioner Francis Ben Kaifala Esq, the ACC has recorded the highest non-conviction-based asset recoveries of over Thirty Five Billion Leones (equivalent to $USD3.5m) in barely three years, and has secured more than 90% conviction rate at the High Court.
Corruption prevalence in the country as at 2017 was 70%, but with the change in the fighting dynamics Sierra Leone now sits at a low of 40%.
The Afro-Barometer has measured a steady incremental percentage ever since the appointment of Francis Ben Kaifala as Commissioner of the ACC. Who then can deny that the previous regime does not have corrupt officials? Of course they do.
Even when the political will at some point seemed impossible, in 2021, we have seen commendable working strategies such as the “MEET THE PEOPLE TOUR” and “THE PUBLIC LECTURES”.
Some of these strategies employed by the Commissioner in the fight against corruption has taken the Commission to the people and vice versa.
Francis Ben Kaifala is the first sitting Commissioner of the ACC that has interfaced with all shades in society, ranging from youths, the media, civil society, religious leaders, community and traditional leaders, women, children, persons living with disabilities, every government architecture, etc.
Many people may be surprised for the passion and love showed by Commissioner Kaifala in doing his job of fighting against corruption. But for some of us who knew him even before now, recognise that he is a man of results and high professional and moral values. Francis Ben Kaifala is not a saint but trust me, no one would say he has unfairly and wrongly instituted charges against anyone.
Restoring accountability is essential to the economic and fiscal health of our nation. Therefore, accountability is the glue that ties commitment to results.
We can only win this fight against corruption if we celebrate our valiant soldiers and Commander Francis Ben Kaifala is someone who deserves fanfare!!!!