INTELLIGENCE AND INVESTIGATIONS ARE BEDFELLOWS IN THE FIGHT AGAINST CORRUPTION
By: Edward Blake
It has been universally proven to be true that the first and most powerful tool to use in the fight against corruption is enforcement- by ensuring that individuals involved in corruption are investigated and prosecuted. Also part of the enforcement process is ‘Intelligence’- which can be natural or artificial. Artificial Intelligence, otherwise known as AI, is believed to be the most recent and effective kind of Intelligence involved in the investigation of corruption-related matters. It can be defined as a science that is used to make machines replicate human intelligence. It is technology that makes machines become smart. The advent of AI -with its peripheral technologies such as machine learning, robotics process automation and object recognition- has expanded the cyber space in a manner not seen before. Its unprecedented use and the way it is deeply entrenched in almost all aspects of society clearly herald the fourth industrial revolution.
As provided for in Section 7 (1) b,c and d of the Anti-Corruption Act of 2008 as amended in 2019, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), as a criminal and evidence-led institution, has an Intelligence and Investigations Department mandated to investigate alleged or suspected corrupt practices referred to it by any persons or authority.
In 2007, the need to divide the Intelligence, Investigation and Prosecution Department became eminent. The Anti-Corruption Commission now has a Department handling intelligence and investigation and another handling prosecution. This division happened shortly after the Commission was granted prosecutorial powers; something that was initially in the hands of the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP). The two Departments now stand on their own but however maintain strict complementary efforts.
The Prosecution Department of the Commission ensures that evidence adduced from investigation meets the evidential threshold for prosecution. In short, the Intelligence and Investigation Department gathers evidence, investigates, and helps in the prosecution of suspected corruption offences as mandated by the Act.
Corruption is the biggest obstacle to attaining sustainable development in developing countries including Sierra Leone. But positive strides have been employed by the ACC in Sierra Leone over the years to ensure that scourge of corruption is brought to its barest minimum.
As endemic as corruption is within our governance systems, attacking it requires both the “Carrot and Stick” approach. This involves Prevention, Public Education, Intelligence, Investigations and Prosecutions.
Prevention through the conduct of systems and processes reviews of public institutions and Public Education fall within the “CARROT” approach; while Investigations and Prosecution are often considered the “STICK” approach.
For an act of corruption to be committed, the perpetrator(s) and collaborators apply what I refer to as, “stealthy predatory steps”. That is, an intelligent or well calculated ploy by the corrupt to scavenge state resources for personal benefits. So a corresponding “stealthy predatory steps” are equally required in the investigation of any form of misappropriation of state funds and properties.
However, so much depends on Intelligence, and this is mostly harnessed by proactive and reactive means. The proactive means is mostly informed by rumors, banner headlines making news in both local and international media, while the reactive means is solely contingent on whistleblowing or formal complaints that are brought to the attention of the Anti-Corruption Commission anonymously or in person. It is only after these reports are made, that Investigators will spring into action by undertaking full blown investigation in order to ascertain the authenticity of the report or complained made.
Chief among the functions of the Intelligence Unit is to gather useful information and intelligence on persons involved in corruption and to provide support towards the operational requirements of the Commission. The Intelligence Unit undertakes activities such as intelligence gathering and analysis, working on complaint from the report center, tasking assignments and probity checks, and joint operations with the Investigation Unit.
The Investigation Unit, on the other hand, is responsible for investigating instances of alleged or suspected corruption referred to it by any persons or authority which has come to its attention, whether by complaint or otherwise. The Investigation Unit synergizes with the Prosecution Department for legal opinion before investigated cases are arraigned in court. In instances where a matter investigated does not meet the evidential threshold for prosecution, the complainant is informed in writing and, if necessary, referrals are made to the appropriate body or institution for redress.
In 2019 alone, the Investigation Department had a total case load of 448. It was able to successfully complete investigations into a total of 140 cases, thereby helping the Commission to recover the sum of over Eleven Billion Leones from corrupt individuals.
Suffice it to say that, the assumption into office of Francis Ben Kaifala Esq. as Head of the Anti-Corruption Commission of Sierra Leone in 2018, the Intelligence and Investigation Department has witnessed some innovations which have significantly changed the fight against corruption. For instance, it has been his era that the highly effective ELITE SCORPION SQUAD, which swoops and stealthily nabs corrupt cartels with precision, was introduced. The operations of the Scorpion Squad have helped significantly in making corruption a very high-risk venture for anyone to engage in it.
©Public Education and Outreach Department ACC