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Saturday, February 22, 2020

THE IMPORTANCE OF INTERNATIONAL ANTI-CORRUPTION DAY

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Nations have realized the devastating effects of corruption to the peoples of the world and to the foundations of democracy and good governance. No democracy that can be buoyed in the face of prevailing and rampant theft of government resources, siphoning of state funds, conversion of state properties, and twisting of the law.  These anti-democratic principles have hollowed out African democracy for centuries, but deliberate and concerted effort in the last twenty years is redeeming the continent.

African countries have been gripped for years by unprecedented greed and selfishness, tribalism, political instability, and rampant corruption. This has affected every facet of society, from the human mind to the human behavior and attitude, and from social and economic institutions to political and legal framework. This no doubt has resulted to underdevelopment in the broadest sense, and more narrowly to poverty and appalling violence and sometimes uprising. In the last twenty years, Sierra Leone suffered the heat of a brutal war, losing a huge chunk of its physical infrastructure, and a large percentage of its human resources. Apart from those who died, those who fled the country many are yet to return to contribute to nation building.

The country’s economy lost its shape – an economy which had taken off from a slate of certainty was reversed and almost located on the fringe of recession. Sectors booming such as mines, agriculture, education, electricity, revenue generation almost gave up. A leading cause for this overturn is corruption.

Sierra Leone plotted a redemption strategy; this came full force, particularly so after the institutionalization of democracy in 1996, when the country signed the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) on 9th  December 2004. Prior to the signing, the ACC had been established  four years earlier. The existence of the Commission and the domestication of the UNCAC document in September 2004 indicated government’s commitment towards eradicating corruption, and towards addressing bad governance.  Celebrating the international anti-corruption day is a mark of victory over bad governance, and an indication that the people of Sierra Leone have pledged to support development, and uphold integrity.

9th December serves to galvanize political authorities and rekindle their interest in tackling the scourge. Authorities in ministries, departments and agencies and in the private sector are reminded of their pledge to work on behalf of the people of Sierra Leone. They are reminded and urged to take action against individuals engaging in dubious activities significantly undermining the public good. Authorities are reminded to protect public property and revenue, avoid taking and giving bribes, avoid using influence for contract, avoid giving and taking kickbacks, and avoid misappropriating donor and public funds.

The Anti-Corruption Commission has lined up events marking the significance of the day. The Commissioner is all set to address the nation on corruption issues and on the progress Sierra Leone has made in the fight. An address as this will serve to assure the nation that there is commitment to sustain the progress made to eradicate the bane.

This Day serves to remind actors to safeguard the trust placed on them by the public on the one hand and urge the public to fulfill their part by taking keen interest in issues of corruption on the other hand. Public trust is a vital element to secure public support. The fight against corruption will be nowhere without public trust. The ACC jealously safeguards that trust and has been enjoying public support more than ever. IAC Day serves to strengthen that trust.

Additionally, IAC Day is commemorated to highlight challenges facing the Commission and the successes it has achieved. The Commission has made tremendous effort in strengthening systems and processes of several MDAs including Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Ministry of Agriculture,  University of Sierra Leone, Sierra Leone Road Transport Corporation, to name but a few, to enable them adopt best practices. Partnership with relevant MDAs and civil society organizations including the media and community based organizations has increased the outreach scope of the Commission and essentially quadrupled public education programmes on the radio, TV, and through community meetings. On the prosecution front it has secured 100% conviction this year. In spite of the achievements, the Commission continues to faces challenges in respect of finance to support its activities. Challenges also subsist in terms of transforming attitudes and behaviours in the fight against corruption.

The Anti-Corruption Commission will be commemorating the Day with a week-long event. The nationwide commemoration will be marked with activities ranging from a radio quiz competition involving JSS and SSS pupils, Muslim and Christian thanksgiving service, and a statement to the nation by the Anti-Corruption Commissioner. These events underscore the importance the Commission places on involving the populace in marking the Day.

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