By David Yusuf Kabia, Public Relations Assistant, ACC
“As a Government, we will continue to support the work of the Anti-Corruption Commission in preventing this menace because in the fight against corruption today, we are rated highly” His Excellency, Vice President of the Republic of Sierra Leone, Dr. Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh informed his audience during the commemoration of the International Anti-Corruption (IAC) Day at Catco Hall, Wilkinson Road, Freetown, on Friday, December 9, where he delivered a Keynote Address on the Day’s event.
Considering that corruption in any country does exist largely within the public space, which is a creature of Government, successfully winning the fight against corruption, depends on the readiness of the political actors to providing the needed political will. In Chapter II Article 6 (4) of the United Nations Conventions Against Corruption (UNCAC), that duty is laid bare on Government when it states “Each State Party shall grant the body or bodies referred to in paragraph 1 of this article the necessary independence, in accordance with the fundamental principles of its legal system, to enable the body or bodies to carry out its or their functions effectively and free from any undue influence. The necessary material resources and specialized staff, as well as the training that such staff may require to carry out their functions, should be provided”
What is political will? Derrick W. Brinkeroff in his book ‘Assessing Political Will for Anti-Corruption Efforts: An Analytic Framework”defined political will as “the commitment of political leaders and bureaucrats to undertake actions to achieve a set of objectives and to sustain the costs of those actions over time”. It means therefore that, the Government of Sierra Leone especially the Presidency must ensure the fight against corruption is given the needed support to succeed. This support must come in diverse ways to ensuring the freedom for the Commissioner and Commission to do their work independently. One of those forms of support is the execution of the work of the Commission without political interference. In Section 9 (2) of the Anti-Corruption Act 2008 (as amended in 2019), it is clearly stipulated that the Commission “…in the performance of its functions is not subject to the direction or control of any person or authority”.
In Sierra Leone, the provision of resources to the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) for its operations is a further testament and demonstration of political will in regard the fight against corruption, though studies have shown that, most Governments around the world have interfered with and exercised direct control on the work of their anti-corruption bodies through stifling resource allocation to them. Nobody would want to talk about integrity and accountability when they suffer acute hunger and unable to carry out their normal operations due to lack of resources and materials. Where the ACC would need to conduct raids against examination malpractice, it cannot be possible with broken or no vehicles, fuel and other related resources. Successfully investigating and prosecuting alleged corruption cases require both the human and material resource without which all goes in vein. “While the issue of independence critically surrounds the success of fighting corruption, I can boldly say one of the things that I have enjoyed as a Commissioner is the independence provided by the President to perform my functions. For this, I remain grateful to the President His Excellency Brigadier (Rtd.) Dr. Julius Maada Bio and his Government. Recently, 25% was added to the salaries of staff of the Commission after 10% was earlier added making it now 35%” Commissioner Francis Ben Kaifala stated during the IAC Day commemoration.
This corroboration by the Commissioner, of the Vice President’s statement on Government’s commitment to ensuring that the Commission succeeds in its work cannot be overemphasized hence, the Commission’s consistency in the last four years in excellently passing benchmarks for measuring the fight against corruption set by global anti-corruption watchdogs, such as the Transparency International and the United States Government, Millennium Challenge Corporation Scorecard.
Through the Open Government Partnership Global and the Open Government Partnership Africa, the Government of Sierra Leone is opening the public space within Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs) for greater accountability. This will allow citizens to hold Government to account. This was precipitated by civil society calls for Government accountability in the area of budget allocation and project implementation. Coupled with the existence of Integrity Management Committees (IMCs), and the Right to Access Information Act 2009, MDAs now better prevent corruption through avoidance of oversight and procedural errors that inform auditors of the prevalence of corruption. This has yielded accountability fruits.
The Rt Hon. Vice President was very clear about Government’s parallel institution of reforms to ensure accountability in MDAs when he said: “We have created a platform that we call the Accountability Framework Group that include the Auditor General, the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee in Parliament, Commissioner ACC, the Financial Secretary from the Ministry of Finance, a member of the Ministry of Justice, to discuss how and what additional steps the Government would take to promote transparency and accountability”.
With the seriousness of those in the accountability Group, it makes clear the case why the political will has not only been the reason for the ACC success in fighting graft but as well the drastic promotion of accountability in MDAs. This accountability paradigm shift recently led to the country passing the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative with an enviable score of 87%. The assessment was done for 51 countries with 24 of these countries in Africa that have committed to improve transparency, integrity and accountability in the extractive sector by complying with transparency obligations of the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative. These requirements challenged countries on the systematic public disclosure of critical regulatory information, the concealment of which allows corruption to flourish such as:
- Identity of beneficial owners (i.e. the persons that own and control licensed companies)
- Systematic reports on exploration and extractives activities, and
- Financial data and transactions related to State investment in state-owned extractive companies.
Without political will, not just the fight against corruption will be greatly undermined which obviously leads to failure but the entire governance system as well. Therefore, the political leadership of Sierra Leone must continue to provide the much needed political will to build strong and effective public institutions for a better and successful country.
“Sierra Leone has no hands in how they evaluate us and we have been evaluated positively and we continue to make progress to show that this Government and His Excellency, Dr. Julius Maada Bio is committed to fighting corruption. He is committed to building accountable State institutions and he is committed to building a democratic State and society where every Sierra Leonean is important,”V.P Juldeh Jalloh underscored, as he concluded his Keynote Address during the commemoration of the IAC Day.