By: Alex A. Bah, Communications Officer, ACC
In the recent Transparency International Corruption Perception Index, Sierra Leone has for the third consecutive time made multiple sprints from 117 in 2020 to 115 in 2021. This represents a monumental progress in the travails to curb graft at a time when there is widespread stagnation at the global level. With the devastating impacts of the COVID-19, over fifteen percent of countries last year are at their historic low with abysmal performance, and many other countries remained on a standstill in the CPI.
Whilst this defines the general outcomes of this year’s report, Sierra Leone exceptionally distinguished itself by maintaining its succession of incredible performance, by scaling further up the graph from 117 in the previous report; 2020, to 115 out of 180 countries; with an improved score of 34-which represents an eclipse, way above the sub-Saharan average and that of the average of developing countries. It is an achievement that characterizes the highest the country has ever recorded.
The Transparency International Corruption Perception Index is an annual assessment report done by the Transparency International that is an institution that leads the war against corruption at the global level, with a vision to have a society that thrives freely from the shackles of corruption; as it existence enables the violation of human rights, undermines the wherewithal for the principles of democracy to thrive, and breeds despotism and authoritarianism. Its Corruption Perception Index is a framework that assesses the level of perceived public sector corruption in 180 countries. This it does by seeking the views, opinions and analysis from various experts, professionals and the general public.
As said by Obi Ezekwesili, a renowned economic policy expert, an advocate for transparency, accountability and good governance; “anyone who wants to tackle corruption must be willing to go all the way. There are no shortcuts”. Since 2018 when Francis Ben Kaifala Esq. was appointed as the armor-bearer in the war against corruption, he has patterned the fight into a fiercely, but fairly approach with no exemptions to respond to the school of transparency and accountability. This is largely with the required presidential and political will enjoyed, that corruption cannot be seen in monochrome and there are no silver bullets reserved.
The fight against corruption has been revolutionized into a radical approach, with prevention that underpins a proactive outfit taking preeminence to the reactive pattern that the Commission had fundamentally patterned its work overtime. To this end, various preventive approaches have been employed and others have been robustly honed to tackle corruption sustainably; as Sarah Chayes said in her book On Corruption in America-narrates a tale that explains corruption as “the allegory of greed”. As humans that have insatiable wants that is an incentive for greed in satisfying them, the Commission’s uncompromising approach to asset declaration has been one major preventive strategy it has intensified to prevent public servants from diving into State’s resources in their care. It is incumbent on public officers as stipulated in the Anti-Corruption Act of 2008 as amended in 2019, to declare their income, assets and liabilities within three months into public office, and a bi-annual declaration. This provision covers all public officers from Grade 7 upwards, and every public officer with fiduciary/financial responsibilities irrespective of the grade, to declare. With punitive measures that include, withholding of salary, suspension and summary dismissal, public officers now more than ever, comply with this.
This assets declaration process is also in accordance with international instruments like Article 20 of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) and Article 8 of the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption. This is motived to suppress the drive to illicit enrichment and it is proving very useful in the Commission’s strides to promoting accountability and integrity in public life.
Within these three years, Systems and Processes Review which is also a very significant preventive outfit has been revolutionized. The Commission has in 2020 developed a Compliance Manual Handbook to further ensure that various MDAs comply with systems reviews recommendations.
Public Education drive has been intensified and expanded on multiple fronts and transformed into an even more radically aggressive approach. In 2021, over 43 schools in Freetown were engaged and 38 in the provinces on a campaign purposed to raise their awareness and solicit their support. Public Lectures across the country has also been conducted in various universities and far driven towns and villages in the outskirts of Freetown, and various community outreach meetings.
Also, the Commission has forged partnerships with 46 institutions, and signed 17 Memoranda of Understanding with many other Ministries, Departments and Agencies. These partnerships and MOU are aimed to foster and consolidate a collaborative approach to the fight against graft.
With its unrestricted information access to the public, the Commission has an information desk that the public can reach to access information on its work, coupled up with its active website and social media handles, which it employs to constantly engage the public. This is as well in consonance with its routine Traditional Media engagements on radio and television stations. Its publication of daily News Items on its work, articles, bulletins and Newsletters are all channels the Commission uses in its fierce public education drive.
However, the Commission’s imprints in the fight are stringent and drastic. With the 2019 amendment to the ACC Act of 2008, and the Creation of Special Division in the High Court that exclusively deals with Anti-Corruption matters, the Commission has recorded huge successes. It has secured over 95% convictions of its indictments since 2018, which is no small feat. The Commission has through its Non-Conviction Assets Based Recovery Model, recovered stolen monies that amount to the tune of over Thirty Five (35) Billion Leones, and paid same into the State coffers.
These remarkable strides and results are what inform these unsurprising successes and data driven performance in the various local and international assessments such as the TI. Similarly, the Millennium Challenge Corporation Scorecard published in November 2021, chronicled a resounding performance of Sierra Leone in the Control of Corruption indicator, scoring a sterling 83%. This performance placed Sierra Leone into a comfortable top ten spot of best performing countries in Africa. It represents a fourth successive year of upward mobility after the country recorded a failing 49 percent in 2017.
These international performances also strongly resonates with various local assessments done that includes the 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, that indicated that an impressive 92 percent of respondents showed belief, trust and confidence in the Commission’s capacity and efforts in curbing graft.
In 2021, delegations from The Gambia (Banjul) and Liberia each, conducted a week-long study tour in Sierra Leone to understudy our model of fighting corruption that continues to receive huge global approbation. The Gambian and Liberian delegations were drilled through the Commission’s method in fighting corruption, like Uganda that had also modeled the Commission’s approach in the fight against corruption. In 2021 when the Commissioner visited Nigeria, he received multiple invitations to different strategic media houses, to share significant insights on the secrets behind Sierra Leone’s unimaginable successes in the campaign against corruption.
Hugette Labelle, the Former Chair of the Board of Transparency International underscored that; “Fighting corruption is not an end by itself. But there is a fight for social justice, peace and for security”. This presents us as Sierra Leoneans with the responsibility to understand that corruption gravely compromises our peace, security and well-being. To this end, we must ensure we remain committed in exerting our concerted efforts to fight corruption that is unarguably the major impediment that has been stifling our growth-with the Truth and Reconciliation Report similarly noting corruption as the major cause of our decade long civil unrest.
In the past three years, the extraordinary results of the ACC under its current leadership serve as an impetus for us to double our sprints in the fight against corruption. Then, it can only get better as better is indeed possible.
©Public Relations Unit, ACC