Upon assuming office, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) Commissioner was so resolute in his desire to tackle pervasive corruption that he pioneered and successfully secured the enactment of certain amendments to the original ACC Act No. 1 of 2008, as would bestow broader discretionary prosecutorial powers on him to make corruption unfashionable, unprofitable, unattractive and unpardonable in all its forms for good. And he got it. By some of those amendments Francis Ben-Kelfallah became one of the most empowered of ACC Czars within the community of ECOWAS States.
He became so powerful by those amendments to the ACC Act that if he felt dissatisfied with a Court’s verdict against any indicted persons, he could still figuratively pursue them to the last drop of their financial blood to teach them a never to be forgotten lesson to never steal again from government. That was understandable because by April of 2018, corruption in this country was synonymous with erstwhile APC government functionaries and Ernest Bai Koroma associates, so the perception that once we all would have been drained of our residual stolen moneys and caged for life, the disintegration of the APC as a Political Party in Sierra Leone and by extension that corruption in Sierra Leone will end for good, thrived.
Four straight years on the job, Ben Kelfallah is proving that contrary to earlier perceptions, corruption is neither synonymous with, nor restricted to the erstwhile APC government functionaries and Ernest Bai Koroma associates only, but that it is endemic and transcending tribes, regions, political party colours – and regrettably it is still fashionable, profitable, attractive and pardonable – and even worse still concealable if you have the right connections.
Those observations crystallized from statements attributed to the ACC Outreach Director Sandy when he informed the nation over the airwaves recently that they (ACC) are not obliged to, and will not be publicly disclosing the names of persons identified in the Auditor General’s Year 2020 Reports from whom fiscal recoveries have been made because as he put it: “…….their matters are still under investigations” – Unquote.
That statement to me revealed yet more inconsistencies (and I dare say insincerity) on the methodology of the very ACC in curbing corruption because in hindsight the realization that corruption was not restricted to tribes, party colours and regions was in fact a missed opportunity for the ACC to have re-strategized to make their anti-graft battle more nationally owned and less politically parochial; less hegemonic as it would appear to have has been since April 2018 when SLPP assumed the reins of government. That was precisely what a former US Ambassador figured out when she once urged the ACC Commissioner to begin looking inwards amongst themselves in the SLPP government, instead of focusing only on “the past guys”.
So in plain and simple terms therefore the statement by the Director of Outreach Patrick Sandy was a double-speak, as there is absolutely no way the ACC and any stained-dyed indictee would ever arrive at a definitive quantum payable under plea-bargaining to be surcharged/refunded/recovered until and unless both parties had conclusively agreed on it based of course on satisfactory conclusion of their (ACC) investigations.
Further no criminal – no matter how daft the ACC wishes us to believe they are – would ever risk agreeing to refunding at any quantum based on an open-ended negotiations or inconclusive investigative processes with a prosecuting agency like the ACC, unless of course they are cock-sure of kid-glove investigations and ultimate government protection even in an indictment for murder. Neither would the ACC ever condescend to such arrangements unless they have logically concluded their investigations.
So in summation the statement of Patrick Sandy smirks of deception, bearing in mind that there are several instances in which names of indicted or indictable persons have been disclosed even prior to conclusions off their investigations to wit: NRA and NASSIT. As a matter of fact those investigations were far from being concluded when the ACC went hysterically over the airwaves not only in naming them but by also disclosing how much was recovered from each of them, the balances outstanding and in what instalments they were to be paid against specific cut off timelines.
There were also the cases of those Teachers whose investigations had hardly begun when their names were shamefully disclosed and their persons paraded at the Cotton Tree in broad daylight.
I do believe that the ACC is obligated to disclose the names and full identities of any one from whom recoveries are made because as they themselves have reiterated, it is our moneys that are being recovered. Moneys aggregated from the taxes we paid to the government and intended for service deliveries in particularly key sectors such as healthcare, education, national security, mobility and telecommunications infrastructure just to mention a few that had been pilfered. It should be noted that based on some of the reasons adduced in the TRC Reports as were responsible for our eleven years of carnage wrongly called “Rebel Wars”, the more social services delivery sectors are shortchanged on account of corruption, the greater the social decadence, lawlessness and endemic poverty in society that will fast track another conflagration.
In my view therefore the sooner the ACC begins to name, shame and even jail those who pilfer government funds to serve as deterrents, the lesser the propensity for others to copy their bad examples. That is how I was expecting the ACC to have been making corruption unfashionable, unprofitable, unattractive and unpardonable in all its forms for good, not by withholding disclosures of the names of persons deemed culpable as mentioned in the Auditor General’s Reports because of their political connections. So the statement of the ACC Outreach Director smirks of inconsistency and of a selective justice delivery pattern which could be misconstrued by opposition elements to the detriment of the good name of the ACC under Ben Kelfallah or whatever is left of it.
This new modus operandi of the ACC – not to disclose names of culprits – contrasts sharply with how they had handled prior years Audit Reports of up to 2018 which also impacted the previous APC regime, and pundits believe their reasons for that could be three-fold:
- They know full well that the defalcations and malfeasances of both the Years 2019 and 2020 Audit Reports impacted this recklessly profligate SLPP government and their operatives directly, unlike as was in Year 2018 when they excusably apportioned half of the culpability to the former APC government and their operatives.
- For the very first time since our gaining Independence in 1961, the Year 2020 Audit Reports made direct and specific references to financial inconsistencies, irregularities and inaccuracies at as sublime an office as the highest seat of government – State House – and they relate to outright frauds and forgeries. Bad enough revelations as the next elections loom
- So being fully seised of as above and being ever mindful to offer SLPP operatives as much protection as possible, they know that to reveal their names would further open them to such cumulative risks as them losing even their individual licenses to practice their various avocations, apart from direct financial losses incurred.
If justice must prevail I believe the ACC should be honest with themselves and resume broadcasting the names of everyone from whom stolen funds pertaining to the Auditor General’s Reports of Years 2019 and 2020 are concerned – even if as is being alleged the latter are in tampered editions. If nothing that will serve as a guide to society, because after all what is good for the goose, should also be good for the gander.
There has been too much brazen thievery and kleptocracy in the past four years in this country engendering endemic poverty, social discontent that is threatening our political stability for the ACC to want to seemingly to condone by hiding the names of culprits.
Perhaps I should remind the ACC Commissioner that it was him who promised this nation to arrest and detain all those named in, and have cases to answer in the Year 2020 Audit Reports before last Christmas. So we want that list, as well as the lists of those from whom stolen government funds have been recovered. Otherwise the ACC stands accused of aiding and abetting corruption so as to continue to make it fashionable, profitable, attractive, pardonable and even concealable in all its forms for good, provided you have the right connections.
People living in glass houses should not be throwing stones.