Accessibility links

Breaking News

Sierra Leone Passes Historic Anti-Corruption Bill

Sierra Leone's president has signed a new anti-corruption law fulfilling a promise made during the electoral campaign. The president has also declared his assets, becoming the first Sierra Leonean head of state to do so. From Freetown reporter Kelvin Lewis has details.

Sierra Leone's anti-corruption commissioner, Abdul Tejan Cole, says it's mandatory for public officials, including the president, to declare their assets. The new anti-corruption law, he says, brings Sierra Leone in line with international conventions.

"There will be no hiding place for individuals who are corrupt in our country,' he said,"and they can no longer go to other countries to hide. This new bill has an entire section that deals with mutual cooperation and makes provisions for the extradition of those who are corrupt -- not only Sierra Leoneans here [but those who go abroad]. [The bill also deals with] foreign nationals who come to Sierra Leone having committed corrupt acts in other countries."

The new law increases the number of corruption offences from the nine already on the books to 29. It also provides for stiffer penalties.

As President Ernest Bai Koroma signed the bill into law, he commented on its wider implications.

"I believe this is a clear indication of our commitment as a government to fight corruption" he said. "What we are doing today is unique, not only within the sub-region, but even in Africa. It is a clear message to all Sierra Leoneans that this cancer that has taken up our society must be addressed with all seriousness and commitment."

The president said less corruption will mean less need for foreign aid.

"I have been moving around ministries and talking to civil servants, and from my experience I believe we can substantially reduce corruption in government. We can also reduce the leakages that are happening in our revenue generation. We have no business…asking for assistance if we can do it on our own. I think we must look inwards first and have a serious fight to reduce corruption in our ministries."

President Koroma says he hopes the new bill will deter corruption. He has also made history as Sierra Leone's first sitting president to declare his assets to the Anti-Corruption Commission. He will declare them again when he leaves office.

Under the new legislation, public officers will have to do the same. Those who fail to declare the assets of their family members or make false declaration could be jailed for up to a year or fined a maximum of 60,000 dollars.