Delivering a paper on integrity in tax administration and corporate governance at a Board Management retreat organized by the National Revenue Authority at Cape Sierra Hotel Friday in Freetown, the Anti Corruption commissioner Abdul Tejan Cole said there were more people that had more or less integrity.
Defining integrity, the ACC boss said it was a living and changeable quality of being human and of behaviour which either developed or diluted over time.
He stated that integrity was not absolute, rigid characteristic, but that it also did not change overnight as it was the sum total of a wide range of convictions, norms, values, standards, expectations and feelings.
Mr Cole thus stated that integrity “is strongly influenced by the community within which we live, our families, friends, cultures and the experiences to which we are exposed and how we experienced them. It can change, but because so many variables influence it, it usually changes gradually. It rubs off on us from the environment and other people, and the opposite is of course also true.”
Speaking about corruption, he said, it involved behaviour on the part of persons in which they improperly enrich themselves or those close to them by misusing power for personal gain. “In Sierra Leone, the ACC Act 2000 as amended does not define corruption but states nine offences which constitute the crime of corruption. They include corrupt acquisition of wealth and soliciting and accepting an advantage.”
He mentioned that without proper vigilance and effective countermeasures, corruption could occur anywhere and even where well established checks and balances were in place, combating corruption, building integrity and establishing credibility require time, determination and consistency.
He explained that there were theories and opinions abound about why there was lack of integrity in public administration generally and tax collection in particular. He further revealed that corruption was most likely to occur when agents (tax officers) enjoyed monopoly power over clients (tax payers), when agents enjoyed discretionary decision power over provision of services and also when the level of accountability was low.
Mr Cole argued that despite the extensive resources spent on capacity building and training of tax officers “recent years have experienced substantial setbacks in the fight against corruption in revenue administration exemplified by experiences from Peru and Uganda”