SPEECH DELIVERED BY THE DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC EDUCATION AND EXTERNAL OUTREACH DEPARTMENT, ACC, PATRICK SANDI AT THE PUBLIC SPEAKING EVENT ORGANIZED BY FRENZY NETWORK SIERRA LEONE ON SATURDAY 11TH JUNE 2022
The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and members of Frenzy Network, Sierra Leone, hosts, distinguished judges, participants, Ladies and Gentlemen, permit me to stand on the existing protocols. I bring you warm greetings from the Commissioner, Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) and the entire team of the ACC.
I am most delighted to speak at such a significant event on the theme “My Speech, My Identity”. As important as the fight against corruption is, so is knowledge and awareness. Knowledge is that which constitutes corruption, made known to people through continued enlightenment, and the people in turn use that to provide their much desired support. Awareness too is the understanding that people have to know that corruption is but an evil and ungodly act that plunges a nation into utter misery. Therefore, it is our responsibility to contribute to reducing it to the barest minimum. This is exactly what the said theme means in the context of the fight against corruption.
Martin Luther King Jnr. once remarkably advanced that “Our lives begin to end, the day we become silent about things that matter”. The courage, desire and compelling importance to speak cannot be over emphasized. In a society where we constantly battle to defeat age-long vices, such as corruption, the power of words is a great tool, only if it is used wisely and judiciously. Hardly do we, especially the emerging generation, give a fleeting thought, to times and state of our lives, and how we can use words to effect the desired change. Instead, we often find solace in going along only and not to get along. Whether it is the quality of education, economy, corruption or unrests- they are all issues that can be addressed when we choose to speak up.
Have we ever imagined how countries like Georgia, Singapore, Senegal to name but a few became perfect models in the fight against corruption? Georgia as an example was embroiled in endemic corruption that had gravely infected and affected its various societal facets. Their reforms in 2004, started with very strong words from its then President Mikhail Saakashvili, that said "We need to introduce in the Parliament very drastic anti-corruption legislation that would give vast powers to a new elite, small, honest investigative unit that would really tackle high-level corruption," He equally averred during his inauguration speech in January 2004 that, "We must root out corruption. As far as I am concerned, every corrupt official is a traitor who betrays the national interest." At the end of Saakashvili’s tenure, Georgia’s rapid and substantial improvements in controlling corruption in a once endemically corrupt society, became an exceptional contemporary anti-corruption reform success story. This post-revolutionary Georgia’s success, explains possibilities borne out of strong desires expressed by words.
Interestingly, Saakashvili was elected at a tender age of 36. Like our very Francis Ben Kaifala who was appointed at age 34, to lead the fight against corruption, and has done so with landmark feats. In 2018 when he was appointed, he resoundingly said that he was going to make corruption a high risk and an extremely low return venture. This commitment he made using those well-chosen but very strong words are exactly what he manifested. In 2019, he ensured the amendment of the 2008 Anti-Corruption Act, which introduced stiffer punishments and sanctions.
In the same vein, he ensured also that there is a special Anti-Corruption Division within the high court of Sierra Leone, with dedicated Judges, to exclusively sit on Anti-Corruption matters. This has addressed the snail pace of ACC matters previously queuing with other criminal matters, rendering a 3-6 years on average for the completion of cases. Now, cases are expeditiously tried, with an average completion rate of between 3-6 months and the success rate of ACC trials of over 90 percent.
The same words of Commissioner Ben Kaifala, influenced radical and revolutionary policy reforms, which has led to the over Forty (40) Billion Leones recovery of cumulative stolen funds, Two Toyota Land cruiser Vehicles, and a Hotel in Koidu City, Kono District. Those very words continue to bear fruits, with radical public education drive across the country; schools, universities, towns and villages. The preventive approach through systems and processes review has seen a wider systems and processes reviews done in various Ministries, Departments and Agencies, with an improved compliance rate.
Sierra Leone like Georgia now, boasts of sitting at comfortable spots, enjoying constant upward mobility in various local and International assessments. From the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) Scorecard noting the country after its failing 49 percent score in the control of corruption indicator 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, emerging in the top ten in Africa of its income category.
The Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index 2020, also has Sierra Leone moved 15 places up to be positioned at 115 in 2021 from 130 in 2017. Same with that of 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 National Corruption Perception Survey conducted by the Public Financial Management Consortium led by the Center for Accountability and the Rule of Law (CARL) published in 2020, revealed that 92 percent of the respondents believed 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.
Distinguished personalities, history I tell you is loaded with a pool of individuals that used words representing their inner beliefs and identity to speak up and speak out, to effect lasting change that definitely would not be realized overnight.
As young people, one of the greatest fights we have to fight is the fight against corruption. As Martin Luther King Jnr. also famously said, "The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people." Our actions, resolve and character is not enough in the cause of fighting corruption, but our drive to speak out and speak up, criticize it in all its forms, become fearless and passionate anti-graft crusaders, is the best way we can be able to succeed in this fight.
I encourage you all to develop the confidence, learn the skills to become the best speakers that you can be. But in doing so, you have to equally research, read, listen, write as much as you can. These are all essential in honing your abilities to speak. You have to understand as well that speech, dialogue, have shaped the world to its relative state of peace, as it realized at some point that, “Why fight about it, when we can talk about it?” In a workplace for example, it is best to communicate problems that can be solved, rather than staying silent and be prone to the worse of repercussions when those problems may have worsened.
The ACC encourages people to speak, ask questions and make reports. These are but the fundamental portals we rely on to do our work. Our efforts and remarkable achievements were borne out of words. The President, Brigadier (Rtd.) Dr. Julius Maada Bio declared the fight against corruption as his Government’s top most priority, in what he described corruption as a National Security issue.
This is what informs the young Commissioner’s appointment and the landmark successes so far. It therefore behooves us all, especially the young people that belong to the emerging generation to imbibe the drive to speak up and do so confidently, with the purpose of effecting a desired and lasting positive change on critical things in society.
Long live the ACC!
Long live the fight against corruption!
Long live our beloved Sierra Leone!
Thank you all so very much for listening.