By: Alex A. Bah
Communications Officer, ACC
The latest Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) Scorecard, published on Tuesday 9th November, 2021, chronicled an outstanding 83% pass for Sierra Leone in the 'Control of Corruption' mandatory indicator, out of a 100%.
This represents a swift upward mobility of the country to the top ten (10) of best performing countries in Africa in the area of Control of Corruption.
The MCC Scorecard is a fruit of the Millennium Challenge Account, an independent US Government agency that designs innovative scheme motived to reduce poverty and support economic development. It provides compact funds for eligible countries that pass its transparent and independently outlined indicators, and demonstrate unerring commitment to just and democratic governance that suggests secured and unperturbed social and economic freedom, with the human capital development at its heart.
The MCC has various indicators and data sources it heavily relies on that inform it annual scorebook for countries to identify opportunities for effective policy reforms.
‘Ruling Justly’ is a primary indicator that seeks to assess a country’s democratic governance, rule of law, human rights and the protection of lives and properties, transparency and accountability, and efforts in combating corruption.
The Control of Corruption which is a sub indicator under the Ruling Justly, and a mandatory one as that, accounts as a series of surveys and experts assessments that rate countries on the level of grand corruption in the political arena, its significant efforts to address it; the frequency of smaller scale/petty corruption; the impacts of corruption on the business environment and the tendencies for the elitist class to engage in “state capture”. These specifics pre-eminently inform the outcome of the Scorecard.
Quite notably, this year’s assessment as always, commenced from a zero baseline, and it is the fourth consecutive year that the country has enjoyed a sublime and consistent progress after having scored a failing 49 percent in 2017, to an inconceivable exponential rise in 2018, recording 71 percent, and in the subsequent years of 2019 and 2020, recording a sterling 79 and 81 percent respectively. Emerging in the top ten this year, and topping the Mano River Union, Sierra Leone’s performance quite resonates with the results of other global, regional and domestic rankings within the past three years.
In the Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index 2020, Sierra Leone moved 13 places up to be positioned at 117 from 130 in 2017. Similarly, in the Global Afro-Barometer Index 2020, the country ranked 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 published in 2020, revealed that 92 percent of the respondents were convinced 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. These aforementioned gains among many others are as a result of the strategies employed and the uncompromising drive by the Commission.
These strategies employed, were firmly supported with a very firm Presidential and Political will:
Corruption prevention being identified as very key, and less expensive than investigation and prosecution, has seen more robust efforts as enshrined in Section 7 (2) of the Anti-Corruption Commission Act of 2008 as amended in 2019. The Prevention Department has, conducted thorough Systems and Processes reviews in a number of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs). The purpose of these reviews is to identify MDAs with corruption vulnerabilities, review their practices and procedures in order to facilitate the discovery of corruption and secure the revision of policies and procedures that will provide the platform for corruption to thrive. It does effective monitoring to ensure that it provides systems reviews recommendations and best practice guides are followed to the letter.
It is in that regard, in 2020, a Compliance Management and Sanctions Enforcement Handbook was produced, as Section 8 (1) and (2) of the Anti-Corruption Commission Act of 2008 as amended in 2019 gives the Commission the power to enforce compliance. Five MDAs have been reviewed with an ongoing review at NATCOM. Through these efforts, huge monies arising from outstanding and long over-due payments were recovered.
In the same vein, ethics and integrity workshops are also being organized for MDAs, reminding them of their expected conduct and ethical behavior.
Government and donor-funds are also being monitored like the National COVID-19 Emergency Response Centre (NaCOVERC).
Worth noting also as a corruption prevention measure is, through the National Anti-Corruption Strategy (NACS) Secretariat, the ACC has established functional Integrity Management Committees (IMCs) in over 94 MDAs, which are meant to address key corruption issues in their institutions as per the National Anti-Corruption Strategy 2019-2023 implementation matrix. Over 70% of the MDAs with IMCs are largely compliant in implementing the recommendations in the Strategy.
This has been an ever- radically aggressive and intensive public education approach designed to woo the people into the war on corruption from all fronts. The public education drive geared towards raising public awareness, stimulate people’s consciousness about the dangers of corruption as well as the benefits of a corrupt free society. It embarked on Meet the School campaigns to over 43 schools in Freetown, and 38 in the provinces. These campaigns were premised on educating pupils about corruption and corrupt practices within the schools environments, and the corresponding penalties for bribery, sex for grades and other forms of academic malpractices.
Public Lectures across the country were delivered by the Commissioner, Francis Ben Kaifala, at Njala University-Bo and Njala campuses, Fourah Bay College, University of Management and Technology and the Canadian College of Modern Technology to educate emerging leaders from these various Universities and Colleges. Town Hall Meetings in all major towns and communities-from Mongor Bendugu in Falaba, to Pujehun and to Bonthe on Sherbro Island, running from Kambia to Segbwema to Koindu, were carried out led by the Commissioner himself, to educate community people, and provide them with the necessary insights on the impacts of corruption and the importance of upholding the values of integrity.
In the aspect of effectively enlisting people’s support, the Commission has forged partnerships with 46 institutions and signed Memoranda of Understanding with 17 including, the Ministries of Energy and Health, Human Rights Commission-SL, to name but a few. These engagements are part of ACC's collaborative drive in the fight against corruption.
Traditional Media Engagement; Radio and Television, and the Social Media especially Whatsapp and Facebook are effectively used with constant publication of the work of the Commission that includes Daily News Items, Articles, Bulletin, Newsletters etc. The Commission’s website is also a one-stop for all relevant information about the Commission, including its very active YouTube channel.
The Commission has succeeded in making corruption a high risk and extremely low return venture. Its Elite Scorpion Squad send shivers down the spine of corrupt individuals.
With the establishment of the Special Anti-Corruption Division within the High Court of Sierra Leone, the Commission now completes cases on average between 1-6 months, as opposed to the previous average of 3-6 years. With dedicated Judges to sit on ACC matters, our gains on court cases have been over 90% in the last three years. In 2020 alone, the Commission secured over 12 convictions.
The statistics and data by independent national and global actors are just validating the immeasurable capital gained thus far in the fight against corruption.
Worthy to note is that all these gains and remarkable successes are as a result of the unwavering support provided by the President His Excellency, Brigadier (Rtd.) Dr. Julius Maada Wonnie Bio and the huge public support which has made Sierra Leone that was once described derogatorily as one of the most corrupt countries in every global corruption assessments, now is a template that other countries model on.
The stout-hearted, courageous and valorous leadership of the young man, Francis Ben Kaifala Esq., as Head of the ACC, continues to inject hope and position Sierra Leone to monumental heights of global admiration.
© Public Relations Unit, ACC