By: Alex A. Bah – Communications Officer, ACC
The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) Chief, Francis Ben Kaifala Esq., has on Wednesday 15th June, 2022, thrilled hundreds of students, academic staff of the Milton Margai Technical University (all campuses), and members of the public with a spectacular and rip-roaring public lecture on a topic that is of utmost interest and compelling significance to Sierra Leoneans.
The comfortably relaxed audience at the Solade Adams Great Hall, paid rapt attention to the about an hour long lecture by the Commissioner, on the topic: “Sanitization of the ‘Dominion’ Effect: Retracing the ‘Athens of West Africa’ to Unleash Sierra Leone’s Developmental Aspirations.
In his lecture, Commissioner Francis Ben Kaifala explained about the significance of education quoting eminent personalities such as, Nelson Mandela, Malcolm X and Barrack Obama, that all emphasized on its critical importance, as the ‘ greatest engine of development ’. He referenced the Athenian Greece that had education as a fundamental yardstick to leadership. He noted renowned Greek and Athenian Philosopher Plato, who in his book; Republic , postulated the popular Philosopher King Theory that emphasized on having Philosophers or the most educated men as Kings, or the Kings should become Philosophers.
Further into his lecture, Commissioner noted how Sierra Leone like the Ancient Greek City Athens, was the hub for education in West Africa. “However, during the 1970s and 1980s, bad governance crept in. Corruption reared its ugly head in academia and the long process of erosion of the gains and reputation of the educational sector of Sierra Leone commenced”, he expressed with utter dismay, whilst underscoring how Sierra Leone lost its once cherish repute, as the ‘Athens’ of British West Africa. This he said, has only been worsening, and the illiteracy rate remains extremely high; “You cannot have more illiterate population than literate population and prosper. This has to change”, he emphasized.
He continued stating that there has been a number of inquiry into the causes of the downward spiral of the educational sector. The Gbamanja Commission he said, revealed among a host of causes; corruption in the school system.
Though the efforts to forestall this sickening anomaly was not given its deserved and compelling attention, he said, instead a 6-3-4-4 was introduced to merely shift some huge burden on parents. He revealed many other emerging challenges too in this respect, with pupils taking exams in special rooms, or being allowed with android devices into the examination halls.
In the midst of these, he furthered the fake degree saga, dubbed as “Ye Dominion Ye”, emerged at the dawn of a Mango Tree Convocation done by a said illegal, and unaccredited Dominion Christian University. He informed the audience that though the Dominion case is one of clear forgery also, that the 1913 Forgery Act criminalizes, the ACC immediately issued out a Press Release on the 19th April, 2022, urging concerned institutions to take the necessary actions, as well as for public institutions to embark on thorough internal credential audits.
" The Commission went further to set up a Task Force “comprising Investigators and Prevention Officers, to progressively do a credential integrity review for Public Officers with the mandate to look into employments, promotions of persons within the broad spectrum of the Civil and Public Service, who would have willfully and knowingly used or submitted what would amount to “fake” Certificates/Degrees to confer Advantage on themselves–as the conduct, once established may constitute a corruption offence as stipulated in Section 128(3) of the Anti-Corruption Act 2008 as amended in 2019 ”, Commissioner informed the audience.
The Commissioner continued by informing them that in really tackling this menace; examination and academic malpractices, is the reason why the Commission has fundamentally designed and given so much credence to its stick and carrot approach of fighting corruption. He emphasized on the importance of “ Catching them Young”, as to what has informed the wider sensitization campaigns in schools, dubbed as “ Meet the Schools Campaign” and “ Meet the University Campaign ”, aimed at educating pupils on the values of integrity, whilst strongly dissuading them from engaging in corruption or any form of examination malpractices.
“During these campaigns, we teach pupils and students the values of honesty, integrity, transparency and accountability. We tell them about the dangers of corruption and examination malpractices and the need for them to resist the urge to engage in such practices. Our intention is to ‘catch them young’ so that when they grow old, they shall not depart from these values”, he emphasized.
“If they do not stop, we will not stop”, he stated, whilst noting the role of the ACC Elite scorpion squad that chases and clamps down on examination fraudsters, since in 2019 with the amendment of the 2008 AC Act, which criminalized educational malpractices with a fine of not less than Fifty Million Leones or prison term of not less than five years or both.
However, Commissioner said in as much as the Government recognizes the importance of education, making it a flagship program, and investing a huge chunk of the country’s resources into the sector, so does the ACC values education. “We want to see our young people learn and acquire skills from established, accredited and recognized institutions. Because we know what this means for not just their own personal development, but the development of the nation and the attainment of its aspirations for greatness. We have an obligation to keep that process clean and free from dishonesty”, he concluded.
©️ Public Relations Unit, ACC