Fighting corruption in Sierra Leone is everyone’s business – there is a new sheriff in town

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.

9 Comments

  1. Corruption is our background. This is not the fault of president Bio? Corruption started since our independent. Lets us not forget again, Sierra Leone is a state of true democracy. So let’s be blessed. Is one big achievement and victory? So help us o lord and guide us and forgive us our debt as we also has forgiven our debtors.

  2. Corruption why. Stealing why. Trying to build in waterloo had survey and plans . Local office say survey for boundary out of date – no good. What a load of nonsence. The plans are ok but the office needs to put them on computer so they want extra 3 million Leones as well as 800.000 Leones for permit.

    But hey they dont want money paid to NRA account and they will issue their own reciept. Well salone how are you going to pay for schools, infrastructure, sanizisation, energy, etc, etc when your own council paid officers are stealing for their benefit. Is their own wage not adequate? Come on, help your country and your future granchidren to have better future. Stop it – kick it out.

  3. I accept and respect your views Mr. Ali Mohamed Sesay. However, I disagree with you for advocating the DEATH PENALTY for the FIGHT against CORRUPTION. I can really feel the frustration you have on this subject. It’s really frustrating for many Sierra Leoneans too. But the DEATH PENALTY is not the answer.

    I believe that, the DEATH PENALTY should have been abolished in Sierra Leone a long time ago. But, I don’t know what our PARLIAMENTARIANS are thinking about the DEATH PENALTY issue. Let’s wait until the STARING and Gazing stops in the WELL of PARLIAMENT.

    As you rightly said, the loot of these rogue politicians and government officials must be confiscated. That is fair enough. In my view, they should not even be sent to prison if they are prepared to pay the loot back in installments. They should only be sent to prison if they don’t want to pay what they borrowed from the government illegally whilst they where in office. Let’s just say it like that. Thanks for your contribution on this platform Ali.

  4. Very interesting article Mr. Murray Sandy. However, I found the conclusion very disappointing, disturbing and worrying by saying and I quote: ‘We hope he succeeds’. By saying what you concluded, makes me feel that, you doubt President Bio’s’ success in the fight against CORRUPTION.

    Sierra Leoneans are not going to hope that President Bio succeeds on this fight against CORRUPTION. HE MUST SUCCEED. PERIOD. We can’t keep hoping forever for our politicians to do their job. Those days of hoping are long gone. Please take note of my point the next time you write an article.

  5. Quite often what seems to be a very difficult and intractable problem carries the easiest solution if we put our thinking hat on, grind our teeth with determination, and declare that we have never heard of the word defeatism and do not want to know what it means.

    President Bio has done a most remarkable and unique job by empowering the Anti-Corruption Commission [ACC] in ways that were noticeably absent since its inception. Now ACC can deal with cases swiftly, send some people to jail or legally force them to repay the nation what they have stolen. The spine of the whole endeavour is President Bio’s attitude to remain aloof of what Ben Kaifala and his team are doing.

    But to stamp out corruption ultimately, more should be done by the use of simple methods which will make those on the take to become very nervous in their activities. One of these methods should be the use of undercover agents who are answerable directly to ACC. They should look like ordinary people passing themselves off as businessmen or women or something else. No one ever sees them walking into the offices of ACC, they should be assigned handlers who meet with them in the most unlikely of places to get their report. In time, these agents should be wired to record all that goes on between them and their targets; this could involve even video recording which cannot be disclaimed.

    Once ACC has collected all culpable information needed, the perpetrators of corruption can then be called in for an explanation. I can see them sweating in the best air conditioned room ever known.

    Depending on the gravity of their crime they should either be sacked, suspended without pay for six months, forced to pay back what they have stolen or bribed, or sent to jail.

    The first time this happens, ACC should hold a press conference to let the nation know that they have set up a special intelligence unit to uncover corrupt officials in the entire country. I believe this should help eradicate corruption for good.

    Ministers, civil servants and others will henceforth not be sure whether they are dealing with characters or real people in their official capacity. They will develop a psychological problem.

  6. It is an article with diminishing topicality as the subject of corruption in Sierra Leone seems to be exhausted by now; as the FINGER OF BLAME is always pointing to the same direction, stuck, even though the act of corruption is “everyone’s business”.

    The present situation of fighting corruption in Sierra Leone might be envisaged in future as the time when the country was puzzled and confused by the ‘sleep walk’ model.

    Whilst corruption is fiercely taking place, all our consciousness is affixed or stationary at one point, and with hindsight, our finges are twitching in contrast to our doubts; then at the end, we would ask ourselves: “what was the whole exercise about?” And later discover how gullible we have been.

    The writer is hypocritically asking us, “How else could a president of a very poor counry become a millionaire over the term of his governance(?)” Is the author referring to, Sir Milton Magai, Sir Albert Magai, Siaka Probyn Stevens, Joseph Saidu Momoh, Valentine Strasser, Julius Maada Bio, Alhaji Tejan Kabbah, Johnny Paul Koroma, Alhaji Tejan Kabbah (again), Ernest Bai Koroma or Julius Maada Bio, again?

    It sounds like a wide question; but just as in the same manner attributed to a large section of Sierra Leoneans, the author did not ask a question. It was a direct statement towards Ernest Bai Koroma – the erstwhile President.

    However, as the needle in the pendulum of blame is constantly affected by gravity, it will not stick forever … and the truth about fighting corruption in Sierra Leone would be unravelled once and for all. Political Tribal War?

  7. Ali Mohamed, What an outrageous thing to say – Kill people? In this modern day and age? I hope you have evidence of corrupt practices already stacked and piled up, – I mean facts, figures, documents and witnesses to validate such barbarism. Its not as easy as you think. People have rights and you cannot trample on them. Outright disgraceful – suggesting such a thing…Rising Sun Will Rise Again.

  8. I can guaranty you that fighting corruption without the “DEATH PENALTY” will never save Sierra Leone from the curse that has dwelled in our beloved nation for ages. If we don’t kill corrupt individuals and confiscate their loot, Sierra Leone will remain doom forever and ever. To start with, we should go way back to since Independence if we are damn serious about fighting corruption.

    • One of the best antidotes to corruption is for the leader (President/Head of State) to demonstrate in very practical ways (day in and day out) that he is incorruptible. And that irrespective of who they may be, those who steal or commandeer public resources for their personal use, will be doing so at considerable risk to their persons.

      Yes, the fish starts getting rotten from the head. Once a leader sets an example of being above reproach in this regard, and back up this profile with unforgettable punitive actions against officials of government or individuals who betray the public trust (again, irrespective of ethnic, political/partisan, religious and social affiliations), there will be little incentive for his/her officials to even fidget with the cooker jar, let alone reach for the cookies in it.

      For sure, good leadership example does go a long way to minimize or even stamp out skullduggery or malfeasance of one kind or the other. All this boils down to self discipline, love of country, sense of patroitism, altruism, and a steely determination and commitment on the part of the leader and his officials to ensure that public resources are utilized for one purpose and one purpose only: the welfare of all citizens, and not for family members, party loyalists, cronies and friends.

      As it stands, it’s clear that the “Beautiful Ones” are not yet born in most African countries in this regard. Can President Bio (in his second coming to the leadership of dirt poor and corruption ravaged Sierra Leone) set such a leadership example? Only time, the umpire of all human activities, can and will tell.

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