By ALHAJI JALLOH–
The fight against corruption the world over has never been an easy task; it has always been a challenging one especially in Africa where many governments continue to frown on the concept of transparency and accountability which enable the citizenries to hold their authorities accountable for their actions.
And when governments deliberately refuse to open up their day-to-day activities to their citizenries, there is the likelihood that such governments would involve in corrupt practices and their citizenries could not hold them accountable since their authorities are running closed governments.
However, some emerging democracies in Africa are making conscious efforts to fight against corrupt practices in both the public and private sectors because corruption undermines national development and promote poverty and squalor. In most societies where corruption is prevalent, the resources allocated to development projects are mostly diverted into the pockets of politicians, technocrats and contractors; thus leaving development unattended. In Sierra Leone, for example, the fight against corruption seems to be intensifying as evident in the number of cases the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has successfully prosecuted in court over the years. The commission recently won a case at the High Court No. 1 presided by Justice M.A. Paul, against two National Revenue Authority (NRA) officials and three officials of the Ecobank.
The officials were convicted for allegedly converting a Cheque in the sum of Le392 million payable by ADDAX Bio-energy to NRA, into a private account of Maxims Company. The trial, which lasted for nine months, is talk of the town because a celebrated couple – one a banker and the other a collector was involved in the conviction. I’m told that when they were arrested at their ultra-modern mansion last July, the police discovered an unbelievable amount of money in their room; some put it at Le78 million whilst others guesstimated it at Le100 million. But whatever the case, the law has found the five accused guilty of corrupt practices.
In spite of this latest high-profile case, the courts had previously convicted many Senior Officials in government such as Ministers and Deputy Ministers, Heads of Agencies and Departments, Civil Servants, Contractors and highly placed Executive Officers in the private sector. But in all this, the ACC always comes under attack by the media whenever the commission loses high profile cases like in the cases of the Gavi trial and the former Commissioner General of NRA. When the ACC lost the aforementioned cases, many of the newspaper editorials and commentaries asked for the immediate dismissal of the Commissioner, Joseph Fitzgerald Kamara Esq. for allegedly not doing enough to curb the menace while some had accused him of recruiting a very poor prosecution team since the foreign prosecutors left the shores of Sierra Leone.
But today, the media is commending the ACC Chief for winning the NRA/Ecobank case after nine months prosecuting it with determination. Indeed, the commission certainly deserves praise for its relentless efforts in investigating corruption cases and charging them to courts so that government will recover public revenues that have been criminally converted to private pockets because of greed, selfishness and unpatriotic. These are the people who believe that public resources should be siphoned with impunity; irrespective of what would be the outcome. Sierra Leone should have achieved more than what she had achieved, if corrupt elements of such nature were never born in that country. During the pre-colonial era, such elements would have been banished from the land for thorough spiritual cleansing before they are allowed in society again.
But again, there are always bad apples in every society whose untoward behaviors might even smear the credibility of decent people working with them. Many decent officials have had temptations to involve in corrupt practices in their respective institutions but because of their strong characters, right minds and attitudes, they have always resisted such temptations. But if someone has been pilfering at home and the practice has become monotonous, it is likely that they will become dishonest officials if they have the opportunity to work for public or private institutions. Therefore, one cannot learn an old dog new trick. These are the bad apples the ACC should be going after in public offices but identifying them is another different kettle of fish.
With all fairness, the ACC cannot fight corruption alone without our cooperation; it has to rely on the media in particular and the populace in general to fight the menace; otherwise, the fight against it would be meaningless. The fight against corruption is everybody’s business because it has the potential to destroy a whole nation, if it is not checked. Yes, we should all join hands with the ACC to drive corruption out of Sierra Leone because we need development more than ever before. That is why the President Koroma – led APC administration has the political will to fight corruption and this has been clearly demonstrated by the strengthening of the Anti-Corruption Act 2008 as amended, which gives prosecutorial powers to the commission to investigate, charge and prosecute corruption offences in court.
Besides, the current administration has never protected its officials from prosecutions because whenever a high-profile government official is indicted for corruption offences, the office of the President would always relieve such indicted official of his/her duties to allow unfettered investigation into the case. On several occasions, President Koroma has made it abundantly clear that he has no sacred cow in his government. Between 2007 and 2013, many government officials have been bitten by the ACC though a few have appealed against their judgments and won.
Another thing we should note is that because the fight against corruption is on the top agenda of the President, he ensured that the ACC commissioner was among the highest salary earners in the country. So the fight against corruption is treated seriously by the current Government and it should be the business of every Sierra Leonean.
The author is Sierra Leone’s Press Attaché in Saudi Arabia and can be reached at email address –firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone no – 00966-56-7672815.