Every government both past and present, military or junta have always pretended fighting corruption in Sierra Leone, and it has always been their watch word but still corruption stinks in both public and private institutions.
No government has ever had the time to identify the principal causes of corruption, such as conflict of interest, overdependence as a result of high unemployment, party affiliation poor conditions of service, unpatriotism, nepotism, sectionalism, connectocracy and the list continues.
Abdul Tejan-Cole the ACC Commissioner has to some extent demonstrated his ability in identifying factors responsible for corruption and has also indicated his willingness to fight corruption using the twin track approach.
Just as Mr. Tejan-Cole said that high expectation is placed on him to weed out corruption overnight, by apprehending and prosecuting anyone suspected of corruption all eyes are now focused on him to actualize his plan to mitigate corruption through a well planned education strategy to sensitized the masses on the dangers of corruption as he has already pronounced in public.
I wish this education should be factored into school curriculum, right from kindergarten or elementary to secondary school and even University level, by so doing the discipline of integrity, transparency and accountability would be part of every generation in Sierra Leone from embryonic stage to adulthood.
Again ACC should not be limited or fix focused, they should also be seen targeting, working with the Ministry of Labour Social Security and Industrial Relations and the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development in looking at the possibility of augmenting the condition of services for workers at all strata in the country, so as to minimize the temptation of corruption and to enhancing effective service delivery in public and private offices.
I think advocacy should be part of the ACC action plan in transforming Sierra Leone to a corrupt free society. The advocacy should target major employers and policy makers so that the terms and conditions of workers should be looked into with the aim of revising those obsolete Kingsley Davies condition of services for a more attractive scale for every worker in Sierra Leone.
The poor conditions of service backed by high unemployment had given rise to overdependence in Sierra Leone as most families depend on a single bread winner occupying public office whose salary does not reflect his status and responsibility.
In that case there will be high tendency for anyone to be corrupted in order to meet the basic needs of his followers.
Of course Sierra Leone is the hardest hit of global economic crisis, where forward never backward, everything is sky rocketing on a daily basis. These include both locally and internationally manufactured goods and services with no reflection on the condition of services of employees in the country.
Prices of essential commodities and services such as school, college and university fees, fees for medical services, palm oil, rice, fuel and other commodities are sky rocketing and the few who are gainfully employed have no alternative but to go the extra mile to measure up economically.
The perception of people about corruption in Sierra Leone is not only negative but grave because it accounts for all the predicaments of the people in this country such as: high infant mortality, malnutrition, high level of illiteracy and abject poverty among Sierra Leoneans. Most Sierra Leoneans especially those living below the poverty line, blame their demeaning situation on the wealthy few who hold public offices on their behalf with no effort to improve on their lives.
From a realistic point of view, you cannot fight corruption in isolation you fight corruption together with poverty. In fact priority should be given to the eradication of poverty because over 80% of Sierra Leoneans wallow in poverty, and the more they continue in it, the high tendency of corruption in public offices.
This is the case because, all those languishing in poverty are connected in one way and the other to those few ones in high offices, and one way or the other derive their livelihood from their meager resources.
Their basic salaries do not reflect their status and their only way to improvise is to scheme a corrupt means of abusing their offices to at least satisfy their numerous dependants.
This is to just confirm that, there is a net work between poverty and corruption.
The former British Prime Minister once said “when the rich allow poverty to flourish at your neighborhood, it would bark at your door step”.
This is the situation we are faced with as a nation, where the poor far supersedes the wealthy few.
In Sierra Leone people perceive politics as the swiftest way of amassing wealth, as such they can do everything humanly possible to secure public office either through the ballot box or through political elimination or influence.
In their quest to clinch to power at all cost they rally around electorates, friends and family members for support in return for compensation after accomplishing the mission. This is the more reason why government ministries are always filled with unofficial and insignificant visitors for their share of the office.
The only resolution for this problem is to create the enabling atmosphere for investors to come so as to generate more jobs for the labour force.
This brings me to the recent publication of doing business report which places Sierra Leone in 156th position out of 181 countries around the world.
This position could not be celebrated, as the NRA boss put it, because there is more room for improvement in the reformation of doing business in the country, especially in the areas of taxation, registration of business, custom duty among others.
If all of these bureaucracies are not rid of this, the investment climate would remain unattractive to investors and high unemployment would continue unchecked with over dependency on public officials, who might be tempted to corrupt in order to satisfy their close relatives and friends.
Off course there is a nuclear family practice in Sierra Leone in which some family members may have contributed towards you and would want you to do the same in return for him on assuming office and you therefore need to either use your office or to go the extra mile to attend to the numerous family commitments otherwise you would be perceived as selfish and greedy by family members.
Much has been said of the eradication of corruption in Sierra Leone both past and present governments by using iron feast to clamp down on corrupt officials in high places but little or nothing had been realized in that direction because of : nepotism, tribalism, sectionalism, favouritism , connectocrasm, unpatriotism, rotten judiciary and political affiliation.
With the above , I hope the ‘over ridding or residual powers’ of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice to nullify matters he considers, adverse to national interest would not be narrowly misconstrued to exonerate corrupt friends, relatives and party members, just like in the days of former Attorney General of Sierra Leone Solomon Berewa who later became Vice President when he dropped criminal charges against Lillian Lisk and Abass Bundu on the grounds of favouritism much to the detriment of the impoverished Sierra Leoneans.
By Solomon Rogers