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BEYOND BORDERS

The truth about anti-corruption 

October 8, 2019

By Sulaiman Momodu

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(beyondborders.column@gmail.com)

Sequel to my last article, CHEATING: let him who is without sin cast the first stone, I am no longer shocked when I hear news of fraud, cheating, embezzlement, stealing, and so on in both the private and public sectors in Sierra Leone.

While I remain optimistic that things could be better in the land that we claim to love, the truth is that we have a very long way to go to cast out the corruption demon out of our lives and minimize what is fast becoming an evil spirit that controls our way of thinking and doing things in the country.

In my last article, I stated that the recently caught cheating teachers and students during the private West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) are not alone.  Do I envy President Julius Maada Bio and his government in bringing about positive changes? Absolutely not. Do I envy the Anti-Corruption Commission boss, Francis Ben Kaifala in casting out forces of darkness from the very soul of the country? Of course not.

The crux of my last article was that corruption starts from the home where wives and husbands engage in unfaithfulness; sexual violence, including raping babies, is now a national emergency; children start cheating right from nursery, primary, secondary school to university right to public offices, and so on.

Today, stories abound of cheating wives preparing the best meals for their boyfriends – chicken and salad – while their husbands starve and probably only eat chicken in their dreams. Similarly, I have heard stories of husbands lavishing gifts on wild girls while their wives barely have enough food to eat let alone dream of receiving gifts.

Government after government in Sierra Leone always makes the fight against corruption a priority. This means every president acknowledges that to change our fortunes and have efficient services, we must battle corruption.  We must understand though that it is one thing to have institutions and talk about change, but it takes commitment to make such institutions relevant or functional.

When the All People’s Congress party was in power, former President Ernest Bai Koroma thought it fit to establish a secretariat to address the crucial issue of behavioural change. The question is – was there any sincerity in establishing what was clearly a fake Attitudinal and Behavioural Change Secretariat? The issue with that sham institution was that the first people who needed to change their attitudes and behaviours were the employees of that bogus secretariat.

Some days ago, I read a very sad but familiar story about the National Revenue Authority (NRA) or more aptly the “National Robbery Authority”. It is a familiar story because it appears the only thing some employees of that institution know is to loot. Like the unfaithful spouse who prepares a delicious meal for her illegal boyfriend while her husband starves, people employed by the NRA easily become robbers of the State; they selfishly enrich themselves while the State is starved of meagre resources in a fashion that will make even the devil bow down his head in shame and disgust.

A press release issued some days ago by the Anti-Corruption Commission stated that it has secured a conviction against a former NRA officer who pleaded guilty to “Misappropriation of Public Funds”. The High Court ordered the culprit to pay back to the State a total sum of Five Hundred and Twenty-Seven Million Leones (Le527,000,000), following her guilty plea.

The truth about anti-corruption is that it is not just the fight of the ACC. It is everybody’s responsibility and everybody’s battle. The point is – if members of the APC steal for instance, they are not stealing from the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), they are stealing from the nation and vice versa. Also, the consequences of corruption are never partisan; everybody will be at the mercy of bad governance if we do not speak out and take action to correct this insanity.

In my view, we must start the corruption fight from within by transforming our ways of thinking and doing things, have anti-corruption measures in our homes, our places of worship which are sometimes very corrupt much to the embarrassment of the devil himself, our schools, places of work, and the like.

 Governments come and go, but if we build a culture of transparency and accountability, soon and very soon, we will start enjoying the dividends of our efforts. We must stop the rape of our nation by hoodlums. If you see someone living a lavish lifestyle and building mansions that do not match his earnings or income, don’t say – “it is not my business”– be a whistle-blower. If someone request that you give him or her a goat for a service, raise an alarm. If your husband is an armed robber, report him; if your child is a thief, drive that demon out of him or her at once. Let us responsibly use various platforms to sensitize and raise awareness.

In my last article, I reiterated that our value system has shamefully eroded and that is what we need to restore if we are to rebuild a new nation. In the interim, I would like to assure the ACC boss, Francis Ben Kaifala that some of us fully applaud his efforts and would like to encourage him to continue the good job. Best wishes!

 About the author: Sulaiman Momodu is a former editor of Concord Times newspaper. He has also worked for United Nations peacekeeping and humanitarian operations. He is currently based in Ethiopia.