John Baimba Sesay
In May, 2014, I was seated in front of Joseph Fitzgerald Kamara Esq., Commissioner-ACC, for an exclusive interview which was centered primarily on the fight against graft. JFK was and is still, next to Abdul Tejan-Cole as Head of that commission.
In 2007, President Ernest Koroma, came to power with a determined mindset to fight corruption as was indicated through the enactment of the tightest ACC law in the sub region-AC Act 2008.This law gives complete prosecutorial powers to the commission. Since then to date, much has happened. A number of state officials have not only been prosecuted and found guilty, but there also has been a high level of public awareness when it comes to corruption and government’s efforts in minimizing if not eradicate it.
Abdul Tejan-Cole, who later resigned his position as Commissioner, played an exceptional role during his tenure but again, thanks to the political will that was/is still being provided by the president. During an interview with him in 2010, Tejan-Cole spoke of being in a “lonely” job. Cole, I may suggest was unassuming throughout his tenure.
Joseph F. Kamara has been in the job for five years. In May 2014, during an interview, Kamara spoke of “challenges by virtue of the nature of this job but most certainly I’ve enjoyed it amidst the challenges… this job like many others, the top is always lonely. It is lonelier in this particularly job because you’ve got to investigate friends and Sierra Leone being a small country, you create enemies in the process especially if you are a bold Commissioner…”
Generally this tells what it is, heading an institution like the ACC. Your work in chasing people for being corrupt makes you appear as an enemy within.
President Koroma recently reappointed Joseph Kamara for another term, of five years as the AC Commissioner. Generally speaking, this is a show of confidence and trust by the president and one is hopeful, JFK will bring more laurels and results to the president. That said, I can only join others in congratulating him and wishing him success in the next five years to come.
Joseph Kamara’s five years as Head of the Commission should be commended as they are years of great success. So too, should the president be commended for determination in this drive. Under Kamara’s stewardship, and for the first time in the history of the Commission, we witnessed people being charged to court on offences of ‘unexplained wealth’ and were found culpable.
Regional offices have been strengthened, with District Coordinators, thus taking the fight to the district level. District Coordinators now represents the ACC as Focal Points and participate in NGO issues, monitor Government Contracts, monitor Surface Rent issues and then give feedback to the Regional Offices and then down to Freetown. Today, the commission has prosecutions at the regional levels.
In terms of Systems Review, “it is not just a representative of what I would refer to as Prosecutorial Gladiators”, Kamara said. “We go there and look at the systems, we look at what they are doing and how efficient and effective are they. We benchmark them from an Anti Corruption initiative and at the end of the day we have the civil society that gives support and do monitoring and then we prepare reports on what our findings are. Most of these reports have been qualitative and supportive to the work of ministries.”
But this latest reappointment of JFK by President Koroma is another challenge thrown at him. There is strong determination on the presidency to leave a legacy of success when it comes to tackling graft. But it takes the collective efforts of those at the ACC and the country at large for this to be achieved. Challenges, there are, but when compared to where we came from, much has been achieved by the Government.
The next five years should definitely see robust institutional collaboration and especially between the commission and the justice system. The relationship should be as strong and supportive of each other. Joseph Kamara agreed, “It has been a relationship of a mixed bag because there are times; we believe we have got good support and good judgment.”
He believed “the level of jurisprudence now in terms of corruption cases has heightened within the country. But we also have difficult moment when we have cases that we believe strongly in the quality of evidence that we presented and the court could not accept that. But of course again, we always respect the integrity of the process. Sometimes we take it well, some other times, we feel very disappointed.”
Another five years of a job where you make less or no friends, where you are seen as an enemy by the perpetrators of corrupt practices, but one thing JFK should know, he has been given another challenge and I trust he will work in tandem with the expectations of the country, government and president. Congratulations as you go into five more years of what you once rightly called a “lonelier” job.