KEYNOTE ADDRESS AT THE INTEGRITY SEMINAR ORGANISED BY THE PATRIOTS AGAINST CORRUPTION SIERRA LEONE
BY THE DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC EDUCATION AND EXTERNAL OUTREACH-PATRICK SANDI
DATE: FRIDAY 13TH MAY, 2022
PLACE: ARMED FORCES TRAINING CENTRE, WILBERFORCE
Madam Chairperson, distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, permit me to stand on the existing protocols.
I bring you warm and fraternal greetings from the Anti-Corruption Commission, Sierra Leone (ACC-SL). And I am sincerely delighted to speak at such an auspicious event anchored on Integrity and championed by young people. Indeed it represents and illumines hope. Hope in the future of this nation, and it represents a huge success in our work at the ACC and as a country.
In 2000 at about the end of the decade long civil war, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report noted corruption as a major cause of the war, which necessitated the establishment of the Anti-Corruption Commission. It was so established as an institution with the primary mandate to take all steps necessary to fight corruption. Accordingly, the ACC has for over the past two decades, been making enormous and monumental strides in its drive to curb corruption.
YOUTHFUL ENERGY IN FIGHTING CORRUPTION
In actualizing the purpose for which it was set up, the ACC very much relies on the support of the general public, particularly young people. Several stats and data have shown that over 60 percent of the demography of Sierra Leone constitutes young people. As large as their demographic size is, they bear the greatest brunt of corruption as they are exposed and the hardest hit by the scourge. Yet, they are sadly its greatest perpetrators.
When corruption infects and affects various fabrics of society, it is the young people that will be more challenged. Education which is a fundamental cornerstone for development will be poor in quality and inaccessible to young people, especially. Services and many other opportunities will not be provided for them, together with the enabling environment to realize and maximize their potential.
This should awaken the consciousness in young people, who most often than not prefer accepting, indulging, and aiding and abating the commission of acts of corruption, which consequently has far reaching repercussions. They merely settle for scrubs and pittance, when better and possible is in their hands.
INTEGRITY AS A WAY OF LIFE
As corruption remains our greatest existential threat and a deadly disease, Integrity is the panacea and remedy. It is that which requires one to understand that it is important to stand for and do that which is right, even if it means standing or doing it alone. It is the direct opposite of Corruption, and it is of extreme relevance to be at the center in our endeavors to actualize our personal and national progress. It must be values that guides, prescribes and directs our routine conducts, relationships and interactions.
It is defined as the quality of being honest, and having strong moral values. It is a highly valued trait that when nurtured allows one to live in accordance with societal moral values, adhere to laws and ethical principles. It makes repudiating all acts of corruption way easier. Home and school as a fundamental agent of socialization has a key role to play in this. They provide the basis for what is to be considered as culture. Culture is said to be that which eats strategy for breakfast. If the culture is one that symbolizes integrity, then there is every likelihood for Integrity to easily become a normal value and practice.
Integrity has to be intentionally rooted in society. It must be a value that everyone should uphold. It is not an inherent value by birth, but learned from the family and society. When there is no culture by design, there will be one by default. The consistent internalization and reinforcement of family and societal rules and beliefs for correct behavior, over time, becomes one’s personal choice, creating integrity. One may choose to adopt the rules, values, beliefs, and principles of the family, society, or a combination of both in determining those to which one ardently adheres. It is against these rules and beliefs, at the personal and societal level, that person is considered to “have integrity” or not and a society is considered “ethical” or not.
Laws are important but not just enough. Having also the personal resolve of upholding the values of integrity, even when every others choose to act and do otherwise, is but in itself a class act. As Albert Einstein noted “Try not to be a man of success, rather a man of value”. Being known to have strong moral values and integrity is an immeasurable wealth.
In various spheres of society, we find young people in majority, because they constitute the driving forces; young and strong. By ordinarily imbibing the values of integrity, and be intentional in deeds and arts, better will indeed be realized. In the film industry, music and other works of arts shaping society, young people are the majority. Social Media is predominantly used by people within the youthful age bracket.
In over two decades since the ACC came into being; especially the last three years, the Commission has revolutionized the fight against corruption, effected effective policy measures, made numerous reforms to instill integrity and sanitize the public sector, whilst making corruption a highly risky and equally extremely low income venture. These steps and strides were borne out of the desire to give premium to prevention; less expensive and more effective, as oppose to investigation and prosecution.
To this end, the Anti-Corruption Commission 2008 Act was amended in 2019. The amendment contained stiffer laws, with more punitive penalties. Similarly so, a special division of the high court of Sierra Leone was created, with designated judges to preside exclusively over ACC matters. This has provided the impetus informing the over 90% conviction rate on ACC matters
Also, robust systems and processes review has been effected, to examine policies and procedures guiding the routine conduct and operations of MDAs, with the view to identify pitfalls and avenues where corruption could thrive, conduct review and develop best practices to be implemented within a specific period.
As much as the enacted legislative and robust policy reforms are essential, culture plays a key role, mostly by default, even so in our context. This why public education is a major preventive approach that the Commission employs in the fight against corruption, educate the citizenry on the dangers of corruption and the benefits of its eradication. With existing Integrity Clubs in about one hundred schools across the country, the ACC has fashioned “catching them young”, as a model in instilling integrity values in kids. Meet the School campaigns have been on course in over 43 schools in Freetown and additional 38 in the provinces in the preceding year, messaging on the values of integrity, effect of corruption, its corresponding penalties, and benefits of a corrupt-free society. This is a platform that informs the ACC on the issues or corrupt practices within the confines of the school, whilst cautioning and encouraging pupils and authorities to resist, reject and report.
Also public lectures in tertiary institutions across the country has been a key public education tool, to stimulate the consciousness in emerging leaders on corruption. With Njala Law Society set to benefit from it this weekend, it joins other major universities and colleges across the country that have previously had such a platform to understand the issues around the fight against corruption.
In different towns, and hard to reach villages, the Commission has organized town hall meetings, to raise the awareness and enlist the people in the fight against corruption. From Mongor Bendugu in Falaba, to Pujehun and to Bonthe on Sherbro Island, running from Kambia to Segbwema to Koindu, Integrity and anti-corruption messages were cascaded by the Commissioner himself, to educate and provide the people with the necessary insights on the impacts of corruption and the importance of upholding the values of integrity.
Notably, through the National Anti-Corruption Strategy (NACS) Secretariat, the ACC has established functional Integrity Management Committees (IMCs) in over 94 MDAs, which are meant to address key corruption issues in their institutions as per the National Anti-Corruption Strategy 2019-2023 implementation matrix. These IMCs meet generally on a periodic basis, with different crops of esteemed individuals as steering members of the committee.
Partnerships have also been forged with 46 institutions including yours, in our collaborative drive by putting our concerted efforts intentionally together, to fight against corruption.
The active presence and usage of the many Social Media platforms that includes Facebook, Website, WhatsApp, Tiktok, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube and Twitter, has complimented our active engagements on Traditional Media; Radio and Television, and the print through News Items highlighting our routine activities nationwide, articles, bulletins, newsletters etc.
With a view to enhance transparency and accountability, Assets disclosure of all public officers have been effective more than ever before. From grade 7 upwards, and those public officers with fiduciary responsibilities, Assets disclosure is compulsory for all public officers. With severe penalties for failure to declare assets that includes but not limited to summary dismissal, this is purposed to protect public officers, and public funds.
GAINS MADE IN THE FIGHT AGAINST CORRUPTION
With the strides and reforms of the ACC, especially in the last three years, the numerous laurels and approbation received has indeed shown that better is and has always been possible. Under the current youthful leadership of Commissioner Francis Ben Kaifala, that his tenure has seen a more radical approach than ever before, a number of assessments and approval has registered incredible feats. From the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) Scorecard noting the country after its failing 49 percent score in the control of corruption scorecard in 2017, to an inconceivable exponential rise in 2018, recording 71 percent, and in the subsequent years of 2019 and 2020, and 2021, recording a sterling 79, 81 and 83 percent respectively. Sierra Leone emerged in the top ten in its income category in Africa.
In the Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index 2020, Sierra Leone moved 13 places up to be positioned at 117 from 130 in 2017. Same with the Global Afro-Barometer Index 2020, that ranked Sierra Leone 3rd out of 35 countries in Africa, on the ‘Government’s effectiveness in the fight against corruption.
Domestically, the 2019 National Corruption Perception Survey conducted by the Public Financial Management Consortium led by the Center for Accountability and the Rule of Law published in 2020, revealed that 92 percent of the respondents were convinced the fight against corruption in Sierra Leone is on the right course and that the ACC is creating huge impact in the fight against corruption.
With over 35 Billion Leones of cash recovered and redirected to the Consolidated Revenue Fund, in the last three years, together with two Toyota vehicles, and a Two-storey Hotel building, the fight against corruption has seen more than tangible results than ever before.
These gains informed by the strategies employed and the uncompromising drive by the Commission has also attracted countries like Liberia and Uganda, to name but a few, that have visited Sierra Leone to understudy its Anti-graft strategies, to learn and replicate such strategies in their own Anti-Corruption Outfits.
Corruption is a
plague that continues to cause mayhem in our nation. But as fierce as it could be, worthy to note is that controlling
it is very realistic and achievable, especially when young people decide to
commit themselves, in taking all necessary steps by personally upholding
integrity, repel, and report all acts of corruption. The Commission remains
open to embrace working relationship with young people, in making this a