This article is an attempt to define corruption, show its causes and how to stop it in Sierra Leone. By definition, corruption is dishonesty in social, political and economic activities of people in government and non-governmental organizations. Corruption in any organization or country comes in three basic categories namely social, political and economic corruptions.
Social corruption involves dishonest behaviour in dealing with people or more precisely, if you like human right abuses. Examples of social corruption are having love affairs other than your wife or husband, rape, telling lies and false allegations, stealing, beating wives and children, human trafficking, drug and child abuse, and several others such as tribalism, regionalism and nepotism. These acts of social corruption are practiced and rampant all over the world. Although there are laws and regulations governing these acts, people still violate them and go unpunished, particularly those in high places of work. As of now, no one knows the reason (s) for Sierra Leoneans’s engagement in these unwholesome acts of social corruption. Social corruption has great potential to disrupt political stability, social cohesiveness and sound economic development and growth. I therefore would like to strongly advise and warn well meaning Sierra Leoneans to desist from acts of social corruption, if we are to develop our beloved mother land Sierra Leone. Government should use all its powers to device and put mechanisms in place that will discourage Sierra Leoneans engagement in social corruption.
Political corruption involves committing election fraud, conducting unfree and unfair elections, power grabbing like the recent ones in Guinea and Madagascar and the previous ones in Sierra Leone, Liberia, etc. Political corruption also involves the ruling party’s engagement in the segregation and marginalization of opposition party members, favouritism, tribalism and nepotism, overstay in power beyond the constitutional period, grabbing power by force of arms through coup d’atat and rebel insurrections, unlawful arrest and detention of people without lawful trial, extra judicial killings and imprisonment, injustice in the judiciary, promoting regionalism and many others. These acts of political corruption have great potential to undermine social and political cohesiveness and economic development, create political intolerance and violence, and social and political problems wherever they are practiced. As of now, no one really knows why ruling parties around the world undertake these acts of political corruption, knowing fully well its devastating consequences. You will agree with me that the decade of Sierra Leone’s destructive and brutal civil war came as a result of the prolonged political corruption practiced for over a very long period.
Sierra Leoneans craved for and intensively and fearfully fought for a positive political change and stability and this was achieved after a decade of civil political unrest. The APC led government should therefore not allow any government functionary or personnel to engage in any of these political corruptions, because their occurrence and practice has great potential to disrupt social and economic development and political stability in the country.
The last of the three corruptions is economic and/or financial corruption. This corruption is the dishonest behaviour of both public and private sector workers in the discharge or execution of their duties. Economic corruption involves the taking of bribe from consumers for the public services rendered to them and stealing the organization’s financial resources including money and other assets or properties. Economic corruption is heavily practiced and is in full force in Sierra Leone in both public and private places of work. Cognizance of the dangers of acts of financial corruption, the GOSL established the Anti-Corruption Commission to discourage financial corruption in Sierra Leone. Although the commission has been working relentlessly to eradicate economic corruption, its success is yet far fetched and much more needs to be done. Considering the fact that corruption is still rampant and surfacing in the country, it appears that the Commission is approaching failure if not already, considering its length of time since its inception several years ago.
The Anti-Corruption Commission will continue to prosecute and imprison corrupt government officials, but I want to believe that this strategy is not working well and is unable to eradicate economic corruption in Sierra Leone because several persons have been investigated and prosecuted for financial corruption, yet people continue to commit the crime. So what is the way forward to stop financial corruption? I think the way forward is to study the root causes of financial corruption by public servants both in high and low offices of government and determine the remedies and adopt them. Now what are the causes of financial corruption in Sierra Leone? I suspect the low, deplorable and unrealistic salary structure and fringe benefits of public servants to be the root cause of the rampant and continuous financial corruption in government ministries and parastatals. The earning level of public servants and workers in the private enterprises is grossly inadequate and not commensurate with the cost of living in Sierra Leone. It is because salaries are inadequate to cover monthly family expenses, workers have no alternative but to engage in financial dishonesty and corruption. Imagine majority of public servants and private sector workers are earning average income of Le50,000 to Le400,000 per month; something grossly inadequate and not commensurate with the cost of living in the country. I believe and trust that as long as salaries remain inadequate and not commensurate with the cost of living, workers will remain financially corrupt and the works of the Commission will go in vain and mission unaccomplished.
Therefore, the Government should establish a commission to study and review the salary structure of the public and private sectors and establish a just economic salary structure commensurate with the cost of living in the country. In reviewing and setting up a sustainable economic wage structure, the commission should take in consideration the cost of food, clothing, rent and utilities, transportation, medical, education, etc, for a family of six persons. The Commission will then calculate the total amount of money required by Government to pay public servants a just economic salary to meet up with the cost of living in the country. Based on my assessment of the price index and cost of living in Sierra Leone, minimum economic take home salary should be in the neighbourhood of Le300,000 – Le600,000. The Government may not have the revenue to pay now, but it is important for the Government to know the amount that is required to pay a just economic salary commensurate with the cost of living in the country. The Government can then decide based on the amount of revenue colleted to pay 25% in year one, 50% in year two, 75% in year three and 100% in year four. Based on a price survey I personally conducted in Freetown recently, I have drafted a just minimum economic salary structure which I am ready to submit for further study by the Government and other stakeholders including labour unions and consumer protectors.
By Ali C. Kaba/030 316 400