Sierra Leone’s fight against corruption need not be corrupt

Emmanuel A.M. Sam: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 7 August 2018:

Corruption is a complex and multidimensional problem that requires total commitment, if it is to be defeated. It is natural that people would try to create privileges and personal benefits, irrespective of how negatively and adversely such behaviour may impact society, or how insidious it appears to others.

After the end of the civil war, a new political and economic system was established, and was followed by numerous difficulties such as the Ebola outbreak and the Mudslide.

These tragedies, coupled with what I call political-alienism practiced by both governments that came to power after the war,  resulted in a corruption prone environment at all institutional and non-institutional levels.

Fighting corruption in Sierra Leone requires effective measures to promote the integrity and transparency of both the private and public sectors.

As it now stands, it appears Sierra Leone is making good strides in the fight against corruption. For far too long, the people of Sierra Leone have been living in blissful ignorance and positive illusions of an effective Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) charged with the responsibilities of investigating and bringing corrupt individuals to justice.

We had a sick and stooge ACC whose mission was to investigate corruption, but in actuality was investigating the less privileged who had no political backing, allowing the serially corrupt and morally vacuous politicians to be left basking in their ill-gotten gains with impunity.

The ACC abdicated its responsibility to protect the interests of citizens.  The ACC before today, could be conveniently likened to a three-year old child in a man’s body having a tantrum.

The tidal wave of bringing high profile corruption cases is finally here. I have seen positive changes rippling across the commission.

I am more than convinced that these unhinged corrupt individuals have had their strings tangled.

There is a new Sheriff in town, a millennial, who being part of society, knows the ills and now has the power of correcting them.

The new Commissioner has brought in some lethal weapons and he is ready to direct them at corrupt individuals.

But the fight against corruption does not have to be corrupt, as it has been for far too long. Before now, most conscious Sierra Leoneans felt that corruption was inevitable, or that it was futile to try and fight it.

High profile scandals were never investigated, and everything was swept under the carpet.

But the new dispensation is showing positive signs that they are ready to cure this deadly disease in Sierra Leone.

The appointment of the current Anti-Corruption Commissioner, Francis Ben Kaifala, has cultivated hope that a new generation would be inspired to join the fight against this deadly disease.

Under his leadership, we have seen many prominent people being called for questioning. Going forward, we as a people need to tackle this issue in partnership. Developing a truly comprehensive, sustained and coherent national agenda to defeat the curse of corruption should be a concern for every Sierra Leonean.

As a nation, we need to deal properly and comprehensively with the exploitation we bring to light. That means bringing the perpetrators to justice, actively enforcing anti-corruption laws and working together across international borders (especially with the UK and USA) to hunt down the corrupt and prosecute them.

We most often than not blame the government for its failure in checking corruption and upholding accountability. It is now time to realize that this is more a question of public morality, of individual conscience and initiative than efficient administration to eradicate all such vices.

Mr. Commissioner, please permit me to suggest some tips in your fight against the disease that has held our country captive for a very long time.

Make the protection of whistle-blowers a national priority: There should be laws guiding and protecting any patriotic citizen that sees an act of corruption and brings it to the attention of the Commission. This will be essential to encourage the reporting of misconduct, fraud and corruption.

Protect the work of the Commission from politicians: Anti-corruption Commission should be totally independent of interference by the politicians.

Professional staff are not to be influenced by political parties and special interests.

Maintain a professional staff: I am sorry to say that you may still have some staff that remain completely loyal to their political god-fathers rather than the country or the Commission. They may be stooges of corrupt politicians.

Those working for the ACC must be well trained, adequately prepared and have professional knowledge of the legal system. Weed out square pegs in round holes – get rid of bad staff that may want to hinder your good intentions.

Cultivate dialogue between private and public sector: There should be a serious engagement with the private sector in the fight against corruption.  Both the private and public sectors are key in the fight against corruption.

Revisit the Anti-Corruption Act: Work with the government and Parliament to revisit the current laws.  An unethical individual who syphons millions of dollars should not be fined $100,000. This is total disregard for the terrible effects of corruption on society.

There should be systematic change to the legal system to fit the current dispensation.

Open-door policy: The ACC should co-operate with other countries and international organizations, whose mission is to fight corruption. In fact, work with other countries that have set great precedence when it comes to fighting corruption.

Educate the public on the issues of corruption: The ignorance of some Sierra Leoneans is mind boggling. People more often reflexively support the politicians who share their religion, ethnicity, tribe, clan or geography. Educate the people on how corruption is killing us in Sierra Leone and how it impacts them as well.

For the first time in the history of Sierra Leone, high profile corruption cases are now being brought to light. This is a typical indication that we are on the right side of history in our country.

If the previous Commissioners were as dedicated to the fight against corruption as the current Commissioner, corruption could have been minimized – if not eradicated.

Corruption is a symptom of a much deeper disease — the failure of institutions and governance, resulting in poor management of revenues and resources, and the absence of effective delivery of public goods and services.

We must think beyond anti-corruption rhetoric and traditional tactics. We need to be more strategic and rigorous, identifying and addressing corruption’s underlying causes and examining the weaknesses in key institutions and government policies and practices.

We must focus our efforts on the broader context of governance and accountability.

In conclusion, therefore, I am with the view that the current war which is being waged on corruption in Sierra Leone, will be won only if it gains national importance and is supported without any compromise by the government of Sierra Leone and its institutions.

To a very large extent, on the face of it, it appears that the government is fired-up in the fight against corruption. The awareness of citizens should be raised to help inform the people that fighting corruption is not political witch-hunt.

There must be the general conviction that the fight against corruption protects democracy and human rights. That it supports good governance, social justice, protects our legal system, economic growth, and general trust in public institutions and the moral values of society.

There should be an effective way of engaging both the public and private sectors for the fight against corruption.

Let the people of Sierra Leone know that the mind of corrupt individuals can be sophisticated, so we need to be properly armed in the fight.

7 Comments

  1. Corruption is really destroying Sierra Leone. It is hindering the economy and most of all it is killing the happiness that people should be enjoying.

    Let us abstain and refrain from this act to make Mama Salone a better place. This article above is a very wonderful one. Thanks for your world of knowledge

  2. I love to see that this government is on the Rampage in fighting Corruption. My family and I were victims of Corruption when my father was involved in a massive accident that almost made him partially handicapped when he was working as a seaman for Palm Line Shipping Company in the late 70´s. Our elder brother who was supposed to do the paperwork and organise things for him, went to the US.

    When I grew up, I asked my father why things were so difficult for him to survive? He took his time by narrated the story to me. Those days, we could eat more than three meals a day and my father was supporting lots of families in terms of Education, Business etc

    The National Shipping Company just gave my father chicken change to survive. Things became more difficult for us to survive, a family who used to eat more than three meals a day was finding it so difficult to get a meal for a day.

    My friend was a High Court Judge in Freetown and I narrated the story as my father did. He asked me to collect some documents from my father. My father replied – my son, Mr Hamilton and Dr Davies took all the documents from me – this Hamilton man was the manager at the National Shipping Company and Doctor Davies was the Bone Specialist at Connaught Hospital then.

    My Friend sent me to the late Beccles-Davies who was the Chief Justice. I went to Beccles-Davies and explained the story to him. Mr. Beccles-Davies went at the National Shipping Company to get a few documents from my father files. But to his surprise, he could not get a single paper concerning my father’s occupation as a Seaman. I noticed he was very furious, his eyes were so red and he told me – my son, we cannot do nothing because we do not have any documents to prove your father’s case – and this was how the matter died in cold spirit.

    I will be happy to hear that this government roots out Corruption practices from its own members. Most of you are focusing on the past regime, based on partisanship. But I like a question raise by someone and I quote – ‘WILL THE HEAD BITE THE FINGER THAT FEEDS it?’.

    It is from this situation that people will commend the government that they are ready to fight corruption, not only the past government.

    My Prayer for them is, that the Almighty God will remove familiarisation from their Responsibilities for the betterment of the country. Do not say ‘NAR ME FAMBUL DIS OR NAR ME BROTHER OR SISTER DIS’. May God help those who have good and genuine intentions for the country. God Bless Salone

  3. This article is well written. It is almost impossible to be critical of it and I hope President Bio will find time to read it. Indeed I hope the President does find time to browse through the Telegraph quite often and use it as a conduit to apprise himself of what ordinary Sierra Leoneans are thinking.

    Most of these Sierra Leoneans are not interested in any political position, they are merely making their own little effort to see a better Sierra Leone which would be a source of pride for all of us.

    Ultimately the fight against corruption solely rests on political will; and the wielder of that will is President Bio as executive head of the country.

    If he refrains from meddling in what ACC does in pursuing every case to its logical conclusion, not caring who is affected – family member or not – official corruption will soon be throttled to death.

    Former president Koroma woefully failed to rid the country of corruption not only because he was himself corrupt, but he also alarmingly made some people, including family members untouchables, effectively making the ACC stillborn.

    I hope his conscience will torture him forever, and intensifies whenever he sees a poorly fed child who lives on the streets because his/her parents cannot take care of him.

    President Bio has a date with history. All he has to do is turn up.

  4. The fight against corruption is highly needed in any country that wants to progress but the independence of the institution that is to lead the fight and handle corruption matters is questionable. This is because the head is always appointed by the ruling government. Will the head bite the finger that feeds him? That is my fear in the whole process of this fight against corruption in my country.

  5. The ACC does not have to go back 50 years and only last 10 years, which brought the Country to its knees. A handful of individuals made Billions of Dollars and the Country is indebted in Billions of Dollars.

  6. The current ACC Commissioner – if he is not constrained by existing political force majeure to protect some identified persons and institutions such as indigenous banks, etc. – needs to seriously consider exploiting the recorded works of Sierra Leone’s Auditor-General from today going back to about 50 years.

    In order to achieve positive results, you must encourage volunteers within Sierra Leone and The Diaspora for inputs, convince Parliament and Sierra Leone Treasury to fund your investing in more staff and protections with graded financial rewards for motivating whistle blowers.

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