Campaign for Human Rights and Development International (CHRDI )
Sierra Leone Telegraph: 26 July 2017
Our findings have revealed that due to very high levels of corruption in the education sector, university students and school going children have come to believe that school or university admission and marks can be bought.
In recent times, cheating in exams has become an almost inevitable occurrence in well-established and reputable institutions like Njala University, Fourah Bay College in the University of Sierra Leone (Photo) and other schools and colleges in Freetown and other parts of the country.
Books and supplies are sometimes sold instead of being given out freely. Schools and universities also ‘sell’ school places or charge unauthorised fees, forcing students (usually girls) to drop out.
We believe that in addition to the devastating effect corruption is having on the country’s international credibility, it is also putting the country’s economic and political future in jeopardy.
Education is a fundamental human right and a major driver of human and economic development for Sierra Leone. It strengthens personal integrity and shapes the country in which we live. But Sierra Leone is losing out. The cost of corruption is high.
According to the annual Auditor General’s report, 2015, the review of the imprest bank account statement revealed that various cash withdrawals totalling Le3,517,199,967, were made in the name of staff of the Ministry Of Education instead of suppliers or service providers.
This is contrary to standard accounting procedure, which provides that payments should be made directly to the suppliers or beneficiaries.
For instance, cheques for sums totalling Le425,000,000 and Le282,081,800 respectively, were among such withdrawals made by staff of the Ministry of Education.
Despite several requests made by the audit team, bank statements in respect of 30 bank accounts operated by the Ministry of Education were not submitted for audit inspection, contrary to section 36(1)(a) of the Audit Service Act 2014.
It was however later disclosed to the audit team that those accounts were not directly under the purview of the Ministry of Education.
Officials of the Ministry stated that efforts had been made to facilitate the production of those bank statements through the Accountant General’s Department and the relevant institutions.
The officials further said that they were constrained to trace the specific account as no account number was provided by the audit team.
To combat corruption, there is a need for clear norms and regulations, transparent procedures and an explicit policy framework specifying, for each of the steps involved, the distribution of responsibilities between different stakeholders in the allocation, distribution and use of educational resources.
Stolen resources from education budgets mean overcrowded classrooms and crumbling schools, or no schools at all.
That is how corruption is crippling the education system in Sierra Leone. And until the Government of Sierra Leone takes the Auditor General’s report on education with the seriousness it deserves, the only way forward for the education sector is – downhill.
The Campaign for Human Rights and Development International (CHRDI) believes that improving skills in management, accounting, monitoring and audit are basic requirements for reducing corruption in education.
CHRDI is more committed than ever to continue the fight against corruption in Sierra Leone, wherever it occurs and it shall continue to be a critical part of our organisation’s work to end the extreme poverty .
About the author
Campaign for Human Rights and Development International (CHRDI ) is a Rights based social-policy advocacy Organisation. We Draw attention to the responsibility of duty-bearers to uphold human rights, and seek to support rights-holders to claim their rights.
CHRDI is in Special Consultative Status to the United Nations Economic and Social Council and accredited to many UN Agencies.