March 25, 2015 By: Bankole Clifford Ekundayo Morgan, Human Rights Advocate
(The thoughts expressed in this article are purely and entirely those of the author)
My long term experience as a human rights advocate has placed me on a firm foothold to state that “corruption has a lot of negative impact on human rights, and it also affects the growth of development in society”.
It has been alleged that funds meant for the fight against the Ebola outbreak have been misappropriated. This led to the Anti-Corruption Commission issuing out a press release requesting the presence of some members of the public to make further clarifications with regards the management of the Ebola funds made available to them. I was disappointed by the manner in which some media houses handled this matter. But at this initial stage it is just an allegation. To say someone has involved in corrupt practice with the Ebola fund is a strong allegation which demands further investigation. But some media houses had already passed judgement that these people are corrupt, which in my view is wrong.
At this point, I think media houses ought to have graduated from such bad practice. I emphasize, it is an allegation and according to natural justice, they should be given the opportunity to hear their own side. It is based on this that the ACC requested for their presence. Legally, it is only a competent court of law that has the sole mandate to convict someone guilty of an offence and or allegation made against him or her. But some media houses lose sight of this fact and further passed verdict that the individuals listed on the ACC list are corrupt: which I believe was a misinformation. There is this thing called community perception and based on the way the media has handled the matter, some members of the community now see these people as corrupt individuals in society; this is wrong. My advice to those who are involved in the said matter should be calm, polite and be constructive in defending their names and integrity before the constituted Parliamentary Committee selected to further investigate the matter.
CORRUPTION DAMAGES THE LEGITIMACY OF A DEMOCRATIC REGIME
I have come to the conclusion based on my long term experience as a human rights advocate that corruption affects the enjoyment of human rights in numerous ways. One way in which it can affect the enjoyment of human rights is by weaken democratic institutions. When corruption is prevalent, those in public positions fail to take decisions with the interests of society in mind. As a result, corruption damages the legitimacy of a democratic regime in the eyes of the public and leads to a loss of public support for democratic institutions. People become discouraged from exercising their civil and political rights and refuse to actively participate in governance, demanding that their rights have not been respected.
It is obvious that mismanagement of state resources will cause hardships and uneconomic growth in a state. The systemic patterns of corrupt practices by state parties have violated a number of international human rights documents. State parties to international human rights documents must ensure that they create the enabling environment for the enjoyment of fundamental human rights.
PARLIAMENTARY COMMITTEE ON THE INVESTIGATION OF AN ALLEGED…
It is for this reason that a committee has been constituted by Parliamentarians to further investigate the allegation of not following the Standard Operational Procedure in the management of the Ebola funds. Bravo to members of the Parliamentary Committee. I have monitored three sittings and honestly, members of this committee have so far performed outstandingly as they are highly professional in handling the proceedings. From the proceedings so far, I envisage a Sierra Leone where public officials as well as private individuals will start respecting the virtue of transparency and accountability. I agree with Mr. President who rightly stated that Ebola money is “blood money”, which in my interpretation must be judiciously managed to save lives rather than be handled selfishly and or be diverted, thus causing the loss of thousands of lives.
It is a plain truth that the fight against corruption is central to the struggle for human rights. Corruption has always greased the wheels of exploitation and underdevelopment in society. The link between corruption and human rights is growing stronger. Human rights are indivisible and interdependent, and the consequences of corrupt governance are multiple and touch on all human rights, be it Civil, Political, Economic, Social and Cultural, as well as the right to development. It is absolutely true that involvement in corrupt practices with Ebola funding results in depriving the innocent lives of the right to health, right to life, safety and security of persons, torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Even under a state of emergency these are relevant treaty provisions which are said to be non-derogable (untouchable).
With all due respect, may I submit to members of the public that the fight against corruption is a key principle of a human rights-based approach to development? “Transparency and Accountability” are integral to successful anti-corruption strategies. My personal opinion is that after the investigation by Parliament, if the allegation is true that indeed some members of the public were involved in corrupt practice with the Ebola funds, I suggest that the law falls hard on those found wanting, which measure will serve as a deterrent. The fight against corruption must be collective and Sierra Leoneans must have the awareness that fighting corruption is promoting human rights.