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Visualizing Sierra Leone’s Anti-Corruption Campaign

1 December 2020 at 02:45 | 1270 views

Commentary

Visualizing Sierra Leone’s Anti-Corruption Campaign through the Commission of Inquiry (COI) and the White Paper

By Edie P Vandy, USA

The Anti-Corruption Campaign (ACCSL) is borne out of conviction to use Data as Insights to defeat corruption in Sierra Leone. In 2013, the NGO Accountability Alert Sierra Leone (AASL) looked at an innovative way to fight corruption in partnership with one of India’s reputable NGOs, Janaagraha “I Paid a Bribe". Amazed at what that platform was doing and still does, a partnership was forged with Janaagraha to do a replicate in Sierra Leone, which was done (25 Nov 2014) albeit temporarily. DFID was enthused with concept, since £ 4.7 Million pounds had already been put aside for support of campaign aimed at containing bribery in Sierra Leone, through an MOU signatory (February 20, 2014) between DFID, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) and the Government to take on the issue of bribery in the ’Pay No Bribe Campaign,’ which ultimate got channeled through another client/developer. The conviction to champion the crucible of corruption and prowl on as citizens has not wavered.

The White Paper
The official release of the government’s white paper September 24,2020 with emphatic instructions to the Attorney General and Minister of Justice to effect recommendations of the Commissions of Inquiry to recover all stolen monies back to the Consolidated Fund and confiscate all assets as per recommendation, was the trigger around the development of the new platform (www.accsl.org) with a focus to deliver quality data and bring insights to the citizens as the recovery process forges on.

The Governance Transition Team (GTT) report was bold in blaming the former President, Ernest Koroma as directly responsible for the state of corruption and near economic collapse, equated to a national security threat, as mused by President Bio himself, when the report was officially handed over to him. But former President Ernest Koroma and (his party, the APC) frames these steps mere “witch hunt and political intimidation.”

The ACCSL Platform
The ACCSL platform (Version 1.0) is set-up to extract embedded numeric data as financial variables contained within the white paper by way of data visualization techniques and tools for ease of public use, and for governments, donors and ACC utilization for efficient decision making. The platform is a work in progress as more critical variables are being spec for programming as reports. The datasets as currently extrapolated are being validated in-house, and feedback from the public on these data values are welcome to enhance data quality as captured.

ACCSL has the technical competence to continue work on the system, with focus now to seek funding to improve platform and make it fully operational and sustainable. Other datasets of interest include the Property tax listings (and its ownership and monetary market value) and that of personnel data to build a financial narrative and storyline to defeat corruption.

There is need for an independent body like ACCSL to have access to the ACC data collected overtime on corruption from which real insights and trends can be reported on for the overall good and fight against corruption. ACCSL in partnership with other actors will strive to have data in real time given access and with requite funding. There are reports of ongoing refund by those named in the White Paper making substantial payment against their bill. These numbers will show up in the data on next release when information becomes public.

The Commission of Inquiry (COI) datasets as spec and programmed takes initial look at the Assets of Frm. President Ernest Koroma, the EBOLA investigation, and the Ministry of Youths. These visualization reports take in-depth scrutiny at the total refund (in LE/$$) by each persons of interest, grouped by ministry/departments. The initial findings are mind blowing even to the layman.

The latest briefing by the commissioners indicated some 126 persons of interest investigated, including the former President Ernest Koroma, out of which 84 persons were named in report to make refunds (to the tune of LE 223 Billion and $94 million) back to the consolidated funds. Our system as at release time has captured some 66 + out of the 84 persons of interest. Gainful Insights from the data will be reported upon. A metadata of these datasets when finalized will be made public as an asset for future use and research.

A Resilient ACC Commissioner – Ben Kaifala
Sierra Leone’s Anti-Corruption Czar - Francis Ben Kaifala; a lawyer, an activist and a human rights campaigner, is on verge to end corruption, with steps taken to re-brand institution, deliver an Anti-Corruption Amendment Act 2019 signed into law by the President, and recover stolen monies to the tune of Le 67 billion saved to fund the construction of an ultra-modern diagnostic center. Francis Ben Kaifala has made corruption a very risky and expensive proposition, given all to have a re-think before engaging in any form of corruption.

Key Data Insights
Former President Ernest Koroma

A mere comparison as per data provided indicates 1 single Property Value at Femi Turner Drive alone estimated at LE 40,554,000,000.00 ($5,069,000.00) by far exceeds the Legitimate Income LE 4,477,636,967.20 (over 11 Yrs) of the Frm. President. Other assets of the frm President includes, property at Roburah in Makeni ($7 million USD or Le56 billion), another at Mayerah- Lungi (valued at $152,500 or Le1.2 billion), and Hotel Estate on Sylvanus Road ($897,000 USD or Le7.180 billion); all total with an estimated value of $12,534,500, which pales in comparison to earned salary of Le2.740 billion for 124 months’ tenure as president. The frm president has been interviewed by the ACC on other matters that includes money laundering, and the sale of the Sierra Rutile shares.

Ebola
Alfred Palo Conteh and Steven Gaojia have noticeably more Individual Refund (LE) for Investigation into the ’Ebola Response’. The Auditor General-Lara Taylor-Pearce was the first to blew whistle on the process and management of the Ebola funds - USD$ 5.75 million missing (of total $19.32 million) for lack of supporting documentation.

Ministry of Youth Affairs
The Ministry of Youth Affairs has noticeably more Corruption Category for Investigation with ’Youth in Fisheries Project’ as the highest in terms of refunds total. Bai Mamud Bangura (LE 1,229,497,545.83 / USD 1,305,337.19), Mohammed Kamara (LE 1,101, 834,880 / USD1,288,670.52) and Alimamy A Kamara (LE 705, 162,545.83 / USD 1,305,337.19) between the three, as quoted by the commissioners amassed so much wealth from the Total funds (in excess of LE 23% and USD 99%) that went to the Youth Ministry.

The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology accounts for most of the Individual Refund ($) with Linkokwing University taken the bigger share, whilst the Ministry of Sports accounts for most of the Individual Refund (LE). Amongst the ministry’s, the Sport Ministry takes first spot for total refunds in LE and the Ministry of Education in top position in total USD refunds.

The COI data insights point to ’Paid out but was not on the vote service ledger and had remained unverified’ accounts for majority of Individual Refund (LE) as type of corruption reported.

Asset Declaration
This is truly a good tool which has not served its true purpose since deployment in 2009. ACCSL have an interest in its tracking for insights and it’s designed around best practices that have worked and should be open for public scrutiny if there has to be any significant impact on putting some squeeze on the issue of unexplained wealth. The issue of ‘unexplained wealth,’ continues to be a serious concern given the privilege proffered on the few in possession of huge wealth and assets in stark contrast to their income

Partnership
The Anti-Corruption Campaign Sierra Leone (ACCSL) is non-Partisan and independent with a mission to fight corruption with big data using technology. This campaign seeks partnership with ACC, DFID, EU and other donors, CSO accountability entities, Right to Access Information Commission (RAIC), Statistics Sierra Leone, etc.; as efforts are mutual, and complimentary needed for greater transparency and accountability in the use of public funds meant for the general good.

Conclusion
ACCSL’s expectation is to provide additional visibility to the recommendations of the White Paper at point of implementation. The visual data of persons of interest and refund amounts should serve to promote change and be used as lessons learn for those holding public offices to be guarded in their disposition of state funds. The war on corruption must be won, and Sierra Leoneans across the board has a role to play in driving that success. The ACC must frame a new approach for public disclosure of assets to put a closure to ‘unexplained wealth’ and public corruption. The ACCSL visualization reports should be one that is compelling and have true market value to Sierra Leone’s corruption. ACCSL will showcase presence on all social media platforms i.e. Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to popularize the tool and reach the average citizens in and out of Sierra Leone.

Note: Users are encouraged to send feedback on data omissions to help improve quality.

Edie P. Vandy
Contact: ediepauljoseph@yahoo.com
Tel: 919-923-4764
Website: www.accsl.org
Motto: Speaking Truth to Power. And Leadership Accountability is a Must, if we are to stop Corruption across the board.

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