By: Professor Piccolo
Almost a decade ago, the Wealth Builders Network was at the centre of a major financial storm in Sierra Leone. The micro-finance and investment firm squandered Billions of Leones from impoverished persons. The fictitious financial institution piloted a get-rich-quick scheme that scammed monies from ordinary people, specifically small business owners and hustlers. The regulatory institutions at the time failed the people of this country. They showed an inability to prevent the financial scam, effectively investigate it and most importantly, recover the monies stolen from ordinary people.
For the wrong reasons, the EAP Group of Companies has been making headlines in the mainstream media. The company established to provide affordable homeownership is facing allegations of running a fraudulent financial format. A preliminary investigation has revealed that the company has received payments of deposits for future homeowners in the so-called “Motherland City” project in York, Western Area Rural District. Furthermore, the founder of the company has a wretched criminal history in West Africa and other parts of the world. He carries different names and passports for different countries. As a matter of importance, the Economic & Financial Crimes Commission of Nigeria has filed a request for the Anti-Corruption Commission to hand the suspect over for trial.
In a situation like this, the Anti-Corruption Commission should be credited for determining, detecting and diverting this fraudulent scheme parallel to that of Wealth Builders. The Commission demonstrated the ability to investigate fraud, effectively communicate with citizens, re-echo the role of other State actors in the public service sphere and create a safe space for people to share information about this saga.
In conjunction with the Central Intelligence and Security Agency and the Financial Intelligence Unit, the country’s leading anti-graft agency is investigating criminal allegations against the President of EAP Group of Companies and his company. The Commission has started the investigation process before pointer posts on social media. As the investigation is ongoing, the Anti-Corruption Commission is spending time sharing the knowledge it has on the EAP Group of Companies, the criminal history of the founder, its collaboration with other national and international partners and any vital piece of information that should be made available for public consumption.
In a series of public appearances by Director Sandi and staff of the Public Education and External Outreach Department of the Anti-Corruption Commission, they explained that the role of company registration and operations is not within the mandate of the Commission. The Government of Sierra Leone has established entities that handle such issues. In cases where there are allegations of corruption, fraud and embezzlement, the Commission has the power to get involved in the matter, as has recently happened with EAP.
Francis Ben Kaifala is dubbed “the People’s Commissioner” by youths in Sierra Leone. The charismatic lawyer and human rights activist has mainstreamed the corruption conversation into every aspect of Sierra Leone’s public, intellectual and cultural spheres. And most importantly, he has brought the masses into this discourse. In a Press Release of March 8, 2023 which centred on the EAP Group of Companies saga, the Anti-Corruption Commission urged members of the public to bring forward any information on this matter. This class act by the Commission is at par with the vision of the Commissioner-who wants to make the institution open to people from all walks of life.
The Anti-Corruption Commission is a public institution. The Commission is not a social media influencer or intellectual. It has protocols, policies, procedures and processes to honour before information is published or presented.
The pro-activeness of the Anti-Corruption Commission should be commended. This singular act of responsive leadership might have just saved working-class citizens from losing Billions of Leones. The Kaifala-led Commission has averted a major financial fraud similar to Wealth Builders. The Commission is still diligent with the investigation, effective with communication, constantly clarifying the position of other State actors and a safe space is already there for citizens to share any information on the EAP Group of Companies and its founder.