Introducing Francis Ben Kaifala – As the fight against corruption becomes a necessary priority in Sierra Leone

Francis Ben Kaifala hands over recovered funds to President Julius Maada Bio

Not since the days of Dr. Davidson Nicol, one of the most distinguished son of the soil, who served as Director-General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), have i come across such an impressive resume of academic achievements – but Francis Ben Kaifala is not your typical college mate – he has not only darkened the walls of institutions of higher learning, he is a consummate professional who will excel in a variety of core and non-core legal roles because he can  be a problem-solver, an analyst and innovative thinker. These are all attributes that the litany of academic achievements under his belts can make provision for. Don’t take my word for it – just continue reading as i highlight the remarkable and outstanding record of achievements of this noble Sierra Leonean gentleman.

Francis Ben Kaifala attended the Sierra Leone Grammar School, where he obtained 5 A’s and 3 b’s in the  West African Senior School Certificate. He then proceeded to the Fourah Bay College (University of Sierra Leone) where he gained a Bachelor of Laws with Honors (LL.B (Hons.) degree in 2006. He then enrolled into the Sierra Leone Law (Bar) School and succeeded in gaining  an Utter Barrister (Bar Final Examinations  Certificate).  2013 saw Francis Ben Kaifala  at the Queen Mary University of London  where he obtained an  LL.M (Master of Laws) in Law & Economics. He then felt the need to add another feather to his cap  in 2017 when he attended  The University of Texas at Austin  to secure an  LL.M (Master of Laws) in Comparative Constitutional Law, Administrative Law and International Human Rights Law.

At the Queen Mary University in London his thesis was  on : “Default, Ad-Hoc Solutions and Proposals for Reform: An Analytical Inquiry into Sovereign Debt Restructuring” (Graded “Distinction”) This Specialization in two separate but related disciplines is taught and awarded jointly by the School of Law and the School of Economics and Finance at Queen Mary University of London and covers: Legal Aspects of International Finance, International Economic Law, Private International law, Regulation of Financial Markets, Corporate Law and Finance, Structured and Secured Finance, Banking Law, Central Banking and Regulation, International Financial Law, International Investment Law, International Trade Law, Climate Change and Energy, Term Loans and Syndicated Lending, Sovereign Finance and Public Debt Management, Sovereign Debt Restructuring, Project Finance, the Law of the World Trade Organization, International Financial Institutions (the IMF, World Bank, etc.), Arbitration and Mediation in International Trade and Investment Disputes, Corporate Insolvency and Reorganization, Derivatives Contracts and Transactions, Competition and Anti-Trust Laws, Microeconomics, Macroeconomics, Political and Constitutional Economics, Economic Analysis of Law, Behavioral Economics and Critical Thinking and Writing for Lawyers.

For his LLM (Master of Laws) at the University of Texas, his thesis was on Traditional Impediments to Defeating Corruption in Africa: Demystifying the Legal Difficulty of Fighting Corruption in Africa” (Graduated Summa Cum Laude “Distinction”) This three-in-one course extensively covered Comparative Constitutional Law, International Human Rights Law, Administrative Law, Labour, International Criminal Law, Equality and International Human Rights, Comparative Judicial Politics, Global Constitutionalism, Corruption in Africa, Constitutional Design, Constitutional Interpretation, Explorations in Global Constitutional Law and Politics and Human Rights Law in Africa.

With such an impressive array of achievements, it was only imperative that he would soon be called upon to serve his country. When Julius Maada  Bio became President in early 2018, one of his most pivotal appointments was that of Anti-Corruption Commissioner, to reflect on his election manifesto, which had at its center the fight against corruption  – and there was no better qualified a person for the role than Francis Ben Kaifala.  On hearing about the appointment, Sierra Leoneans across the political divide were excited that such a legal luminary with an outstanding reputation as a no-nonsense hard-hitter was being placed in charge of the fight against corruption in a country that has been beleaguered by the plague of rampant graft in most part of its recent political and economic history!

Francis Ben Kaifala, was 34 when he  assumed office in April 2018. The young Commissioner came in with a stellar record of academic and professional excellence as a lawyer and he promised the President of Sierra Leone and the country to lead the fight against corruption more robustly, and said he would re-position the Anti-Corruption Commission at the center of Sierra Leone’s new trajectory for change and development with a view to shifting the perception of Sierra Leoneans to believe in the fight against corruption, and favourably position the country in global indexes on corruption, ensure corruption control is greater than ever before, launder the image of the country, and ensure that that impunity for corruption is eradicated or And made the exception.

And true to his promise, under the Commissioner’s tenure, and due to immediate robust steps taken aimed at corruption control, Sierra Leone has now passed the Millennium Challenge Corporations’ Control of Corruption Scorecard from a failing position of 49% in 2017 to a respectable pass of 71% in 2018; Afro Barometer Corruption Perception dropped from over 70% in 2015-2017 to an all-time low of 43% in 2018; Similarly, according to the Afro Barometer Corruption Perception survey of 2018, Citizens’ belief in government’s effort in the fight against corruption jumped from an all-time low of 40% to over 66% in 2018; and according to Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index, Sierra Leone moved one space up in the CPI rankings unlike 113 other countries that experienced a decline in scores. Moreover, the ACC has a 100% conviction rate and no appeal from prosecutions.

Unprecedentedly, the ACC was able to domestically recover over Le 8.4 Billion (Over $1,000,000.00) of lost fund through corruption and corrupt practices and returned to the People of Sierra Leone for the provision of social services with almost 6 Billion Leones already committed to be recovered in the next 6 months after completed investigations It is important to note that this recovery rate within one year is almost equivalent to what the ACC has ever collected in its 18 years existence as a whole. Also, Prosecutions are now moving faster and investigations are covering all spheres of public life with no room for impunity. Generally, the citizens’ confidence in the fight against corruption and the results being produced by the ACC is at an all-time high in 2018 since Mr. Kaifala assumed office.

All of these were achieved by the young commissioner through a radical transparency drive built on the pillars of Prevention, Investigation, Public Education and Prosecution. Based on his efforts, the Anti-Corruption Commission was named for the first time ever “Best Public Institution of the Year 2018” and Commissioner Kaifala awarded “Best Public Sector Leader of the Year 2018” at the National Development Awards in December, 2018. In that regard, after inheriting an institution that many considered a failure in its mandate due to lack of leadership, the following achievements have been made,
among many others:

1. On prevention:
The following well-targeted moves and plans were implemented
and pursued with good impact:

a. Systems review done at the Freetown City
Council;
a. Systems review done at Western Rural District Council;

b. Systems review, on contingent on the outcome of an investigation commenced and completed under his tenure, has begun at West African Examinations Council;

c. Commenced robust work on corruption prevention in the private sector – in collaboration with the Cooperate Affairs Commission and the Administrator and Registrar General’s Office;

d. Has been monitoring GST (tax) payments to NRA;

e. Presented a monitoring report on Project Management in
the Local Councils;

f. Generally, has been mobilizing political actors and technocrats to invest in and promote prevention in all Ministries, Departments and Agencies by embedding Integrity management Committees in MDA’s and tools that encourage corruption prevention.

2. On investigations
Investigators have been trained to carry out and produce investigative reports with speed and accuracy.

a. Investigations are targeting all facets of public life and other areas covered under the mandate given to the ACC including Ministries, Departments and Agencies, academic institutions, Unions, and Non-governmental organizations.

b. Prosecutors have been embedded with investigators so that the elements of the offences investigated are specifically regarded and covered in the investigations.

c. More cases are being investigated and prosecuted or recovery made

3. On Prosecutions:
Well-targeted moves and actions were implemented and pursued with good impact.

a. The Hajj file, which includes the former Vice President (as accused), the former
Minister of Mines, etc. was reviewed and proceeded with in court (the prosecution
has closed its case);

b. The NASSIT/SISIMI investigations have been concluded and, in addition to the recovery made therefrom, two persons: the former Director General and the Chairman of the Board, have been charged to court;

c. The matter involving the former Head of Law Department was reviewed and is now in court;

a. Two former Deputy Ministers of Works have been separately investigated and charged to court;

d. The former deputy minister of Health has been investigated and charged to court;

e. The Director of Information and the Senior Accountant have been investigated and charged to court;

4. On Recoveries:

The total amount of Le8,044,098,336.00 (Eight billion forty-four million six hundred and ninety-eight thousand three hundred and thirty-six Leones) {over $1,000,000.00 (One Million United States Dollars} has been recovered from proceeds of corruption and used by the country to provide social services like the building of an ultramodern advanced diagnostic facility.

5. On collaboration:

The commission has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with various civil society organisations to help build a robust coalition to lead in the fight against corruption and strengthened the existing relationships including:

a. Civil Society Consortium on Accountability and Service delivery;

b. Campaign for Human Rights and Development International (CHRDI).

c. Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law

d. Movement for Accountability

6. On the perception in the fight against corruption in Sierra Leone:
Sierra Leone passed the MCC scorecard on corruption by 71% in
2018 as against the 49% score in 2017;

a. On the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) conducted by Transparency International,
Sierra Leone moved from 130 (in 2017) to
129 in 2018;

b. On the Afro Barometer Index, the people who held that corruption was on the
increase reduced from 70% (in 2015) to 43% (in 2018).

7. On Leadership of the Commission:

Without sacking staff or embarking on a massive restructuring drive or recruitment, Mr. Kaifala has been able to harness the potential of the existing staff of the Commission to achieve all the above. This has been truly remarkable considering he came immediately after a change of government and with high expectations of following the foots steps of other institutions to engage in massive purging. His leadership is now an example of how leadership matter and can make a difference in institutions. His reputation for performing his duty with integrity and fairness has also been a great asset for himself and country.

The future can only be bright, with a presidency that has provided the latitude, and an ACC commissioner that has been given the scope, the fight against corruption has become a necessary embodiment, enshrined in the country’s new way of life.

© 2019, Ahmed M Kamara. All rights reserved. – The views expressed here are purely those of the author and not necessarily those of the publishers. – Newstime Africa content cannot be reproduced in any form – electronic or print – without prior consent of the Publishers. Copyright infringement will be pursued and perpetrators prosecuted.

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