Sierra Leone passes US corruption test

Ernest_Bai_Koroma
Sierra Leone ex-President Ernest Bai Koroma

Sierra Leone has finally passed the Control of Corruption (COC) indicator of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC).

The development has boosted the new government’s war on corruption, and raised it chances of attracting US financial support.

MCC, an initiative of the US government, was designed to promote good governance and democracy with the ultimate goal of ending widespread poverty in developing countries.

The latest scorecard was released last week, in a joint statement by the government and the US Embassy in Freetown.

The MCC Scorecard consists of 20 indicators under three broad categories: Economic Freedom, Ruling Justly and Investing in People. The COC indicator falls under the Ruling Justly category and it weighs hugely in determining the overall performance of a country.

The control

Eligible countries go through several years of assessment based on these indicators, which they are required to pass repeatedly to share part of the corporation’s $2 billion budget.

The scorecard is usually published every November.

A country only needs to pass 10 out of 20 indicators, inclusive of control of corruption. Countries which pass 18 or 19 indicators but a fail in the control of corruption, may still fail to attract funding.

Sierra Leone scored 71 percent in COC in the Financial Year 2019. This compares to its previous score (2018) of 49 percent, representing a 22 percent leap, a statement from the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) said.

It is the West African country’s strongest performance in the MCC assessment since it was first introduced in 2004.

Last year, Sierra Leone failed the corruption indicator by 0.01 percent, consequently failing to pass the overall scorecard even though it passed 10 of the 20 indicators, including democratic rights. This year, it failed 11 and passed nine indicators, including the COC.

The assessment

There are two categories of funding: Threshold Programme and Compact.

A Compact is awarded if the country scores highly on the selection criteria indicators. If the country scores poorly but has a positive, upward trend on the selection criteria, it can still be eligible for a smaller grant, called a Threshold Programme.

In 2012, Sierra Leone and its neighbour Liberia and Benin were among seven countries selected as eligible to develop Compact and Threshold programmes. The others were Ghana, Morocco, Niger, and Tanzania.

The then government of Ernest Bai Koroma immediately instituted the Millennium Challenge Coordinating Unit (MCCU), located in the office of the vice-president.

Sierra Leone, Liberia and Benin subsequently failed to make it after the assessment of the following year due to poor COC score, forcing the MCC to maintain “continued but limited engagement” with the three countries.

Liberia has gone ahead to win the Compact grant in 2016 and receive $257 million, which is being ploughed into its electricity and road sector. That same year, Sierra Leone was also granted $44 million in the Threshold category. It is currently implementing projects geared towards strengthening and capacity building of its water and energy sectors.