On Thursday, 31 October 2019, Sierra Leone’s crusade against graft was boosted with the passing of the amended Anti-Corruption Act.
“The Anti-Corruption Amendment Act 2019” which will replace the Anti-Corruption Act of 2008, when accented to by the President, seeks to increase the powers of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) in the fight against graft which campaigners say is at an endemic proportion in the country.
Among other things, the amended document has streamlined the category of public officials covered under the asset declaration law. Until now, every government official – both civil and public servants, were required to declare their assets.
The Commission said that made its work cumbersome and it wanted it to target specific categories of officials from Grade Nine in the employment scale and above.
The amended law also seeks to increase penalties for offences under the Act and for other related matters and strengthen protection of witnesses who assist the Commission. The Commission will also have alternatives to prosecution under the new law which widens the scope of corruption to include phrases that indicate that the accused ‘offered’, ‘solicited’, ‘obtained’ or ‘received’ corruption advantage, in addition to ‘gave’ and accepted’ an advantage. ACC Commissioner, Francis Ben Kaifala, who championed the amendment, hailed the development on social media.
In a tweet, following news of the parliamentary decision, he noted that the law will make corruption expensive.
“The People’s Anti-Corruption Amendment Bill 2019 … fully empowers the ACC to make corruption very expensive and more efficiently confront corruption at all levels; including preventing the signing of contracts that are NOT in the national interest!” he tweeted.
The passing of the law comes after a long process that was characterized by partisan political exchanges between the governing Sierra Leone People’s Party and the main opposition All People’s Congress in the House.
APC legal experts and some lawmakers were apprehensive about some aspects of the amendment proposed by the current ACC head.
The first Anti-graft law was passed under an SLPP-government led by late former President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah in 2000, towards the end of the civil war. Kabbah’s successor, Ernest Bai Koroma, amended it in 2008.