Murray Sandy: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 16 May 2019:
Any successful developmental strides made by a country largely depends upon it’s ability to control corrupt practices and activities in the daily life of its citizens, particularly in the context of the awarding of government contracts, fair judiciary, judicious management of donor funds, the wholly open competitive bidding for government contracts, and the general conduct of government’s business.
Bribery, which has embedded itself into the fabric of the entire population in Sierra Leone, is a cancer that must be extricated from the life of its citizens as a matter of urgency. And this is everyone’s business.
It’s been a long time since I ventured into the wilderness of Sierra Leone, but I can vividly recall when a government official who was responsible for signing renewal of passports, surreptitiously made it known that ‘it was not for naught’.
After meeting him to sign the passport – after all protocols have been satisfied, he intimated that he doesn’t have a pen to sign the said document. I was totally flabbergasted and confused because his chest pocket was indeed lined with several pens.
I have never encountered a government official who would display such callousness and indifference towards his job – for which he is handsomely being paid to perform. He was asking for a bribe in broad daylight, I later came to recognize.
And this repugnant behaviour has indeed permeated the entire population, including politicians, government ministers and their deputies, heads of department and agencies (MDA’s) and other semi-autonomous institutions, so-called appointed persons of eminent backgrounds, private businesses, schools, universities and the entire fabric of society, encompassing the entire population.
Corruption seems to be an entrenched part of Sierra Leone’s political, business and cultural paradigm.
How else could a president of a very poor country become a millionaire over the term of his governance.
It all stems from the fact that he is inexplicably involved in every single investment proposal that is proposed in the country. The president is often the final arbiter. The president signs off on any project to go forward, and that involves bribery.
Corruption is a highly visible aspect of Sierra Leone society and politics, with a number of high-profile scandals standing out.
President Maada Bio has heavily invested in the country’s Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), making it a robust, independent and powerful agency to stem the inherently entrenched corruption in Sierra Leone.
And the ACC has not disappointed so far, comparable to the previous government which only offered lip service to the institution with minimal prosecutorial powers, and the safeguarding of sacred cows.
Corruption is a punishable offense under the laws of nearly every African state, Sierra Leone included, with the ACC as its enforcement agency.
As a matter of policy, anti-corruption is expressly established in their Constitutions and in various pronouncements by government and NGO’s.
In fact, Sierra Leone’s leadership is so concerned about the problem of corruption that hardly a day goes by, without some government functionary or entity criticizing corruption practices and its cancerous effects on the society at large.
Yet, for all intents and purposes in eradicating corruption, Sierra Leone has made little progress on this front in the immediate past, except now.
President Julius Maada Bio is in power and has decided to confront this menace head-on, once and for all. We hope he succeeds.