Thursday, April 19, 2007

Britain Blacklists Kabbah, SLPP Gov't for Corruption

A story from News-National posted on a web called "Salone Discussion" has reported that the Sierra Leone Peoples Party's attempt to fight corruption in Sierra Leone has failed, as a devastating report reveals by the British Department of International Development (DFID). Despite the millions of pounds from British taxpayers to tackle the cancer that has eaten away the fabric of society, corruption, also a reason for the 11-year civil war remains pervasive in the country.

This is the damning verdict of an in-depth examination of President Kabbah's effort to tackle the chronic and endemic problem. The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), which is at the centre of the fight against corruption, has 'Little or no impact' on the reduction of real or perceived levels of corruption.

The investigation shows that the commissioner who is accountable to the President, who appoints him, has not provided the necessary leadership in building and leading an effective ACC within an already difficult environment. As a result, the Commission has deteriorated in terms of its effectiveness, capacity, and in the morale of its staff from the previous review period under the leadership of the dismissed Commissioner Val Collier.

The report sharply criticizes the sincerity of donors especially Britain, on its insistence on the signing of agreements, the latest of which is the Improved Governance Accountability Pact 2006 (IGAP), which 'appear to be honoured more in the breach'. This, the authors of the report say, appears to run the risk of 'making a mockery of the government's and donors declared commitment to the goals of poverty reduction and sustainable development which guide the agreements'.

Necessary changes to the ACC Act 2000 by of end 2006 to empower the Commission to prosecute its own cases without reference to the Attorney General's office and progress on high-level prosecutions are examples of benchmarks under the IGAP that have not been honoured.

The ACC benchmark agreed between Kabbah's government and DFID, and the IGAP agreement all specifically identify progress in prosecuting and convicting 'high level' or 'significant public interest' cases as key indicators for the Commission's efforts and a measure of the effectiveness of the ACC.

Also, a change in parliamentary Standing Order 75, to allow expeditious publication of the Office of the Accountant General (OAG's) annual reports, which has serious implications for executive accountability, legislative oversight and public access to information on how public resources are spent has also not been honoured by the government. Audited accounts of government spending have not been published for at least five years running. There has been a history of repeated and intensive attempts to address these issues, which have largely been unfruitful despite considerable investments of human and financial resources and time, the report says.

Because of the lack of political will to fight corruption, the report conducted by distinguished consultants Joel Cutting and Gladwell Otieno, recommends that the British Government cease support to the ACC with immediate effect. UK development funds could be more productively spent elsewhere, including the media and other anticorruption activities, the report suggested.

The report comes nearly 18 months since Kabbah's in-law, professor Henry Joko-Smart' was appointed Commissioner of the ACC. His administration has made matters even worse for the Commission, according to the report, which was commissioned by DFID to review its support to the ACC.

Fighting corruption in Sierra Leone has been the yardstick with which the international community measures the seriousness or lack of it of the commitment of the SLPP Government to the goals of poverty reduction and sustainable development.

Furthermore, progress in fighting corruption, which is seen as an ingredient for sustainable peace, has also been linked by the international community to future and further funding of government activities.

It appears, however, that DFID is hesitant to implementing the key recommendations of its own report, thereby; making a mockery and calling into question its sincerity and commitment to poverty reduction, sustainable peace and development in Sierra Leone. Unless DFID remains firm in its dealings and agreements with the government, there will be little progress in the fight against corruption, our expert warns. 'The softly, softly approach won't work. The SLPP government will see that as weakness and use it as a blackmailing tool for its political advantage'.

An official from DFID says support to the ACC, Phase 2, officially ended at the end of March 2007. An annual review and audit was carried out in late 2006, which made a number of recommendations that were shared with the ACC. DFID says it has 'recently written to the Commissioner offering to extend the current programme for a further 5 months, to end August 2007, to provide the ACC with the opportunity to implement the key recommendations, which include, updating of its organizational structure and strengthening of internal controls.

We could not reach officials of the ACC after a week of trying. But a government official at the Sierra Leone High Commission in London says Kabbah, who is averse to any criticism of his government, is 'unhappy with DFID and wants it to leave the country all together'. As a pointer to the government's displeasure, 'DIFD Director Richard Hogg has been asked to leave the country'. We will endeavour to publish verbatim the full report as soon as we are able to do so.

Link to allAfrica.com: Sierra Leone: Britain Blacklists Kabbah, SLPP Gov't for Corruption (Page 1 of 1)