DON’T LOOK AT THE SYMPTOMS OF CORRUPTION BUT LOOK AT THE REAL CAUSES OF CORRUPTION
April 11, 2019
BY JOSEPH FOMOLU
Indulging in corrupt practices in Sierra Leone has become a norm to almost every Sierra Leonean. The teacher demands sex for grades. The police extort money from commercial drivers. The civil servant cannot look for a file without greasing his/her palm. The human Resource Officer cannot give job to a lady without forcefully fallen in love with her. The pupils/students rely on leakage and spying to pass an examination. The potential bidder for a product that has been advertised to supply an organization bribes to be favoured for a contract that his institution does not have the man power or knowledge or good.
Government over the years has failed in its social contract to provide basic services for the people of Sierra Leone. One service that has been neglected is housing. In Europe, America and other countries, government is responsible for providing housing for their citizens. That is why the children born in these countries never worry about building a house after leaving school/college/university. Government also rent houses in their local currencies. But in Sierra Leone, it is not so.
Leaders also failed to be role models to their children. They indulge in things that lack integrity. They do things that they know are not normal yet they continue to do them. For instance, the Bible says that “Thou Shalt not Steal.” Though they go to church every day or every Sunday or go to mosque every day or every Friday or once in a year, they never practice what the pastor or imam tells them to do according to the scriptures or surahs.
Thus, they make as their own what belong to all Sierra Leoneans. The ‘I’ always and not ‘We’ is the main reason why people in Sierra Leone are corrupt. People in Sierra Leone are so selfish that they want everything for themselves at the detriment of others. Which makes me sometimes to wonder why do such people go to church or mosque when true love is not inside their DNAs. The greatest commandment according to Jesus Christ is to ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ But are our leaders adhering to the command of Jesus? No! This is not a judgment but a truth.
Otherwise, why are people in this country corrupt if they have they fear of God in them? Why take up a contract when you know you do not have the capacity? Why take up a contract and do a substandard work for people in the community you live in Sierra Leone or take up a contract and do very poor job? For instance when the UN was building peace after the 11 years war, many public buildings were rehabilitated or renovated by Sierra Leoneans. It is a pity that some of those rehabilitated structures need rehabilitation today because the contractors did very poor work.
This is because the attitude of the Sierra Leonean is ‘myself and my family,’ not ‘ourselves.’ This sometimes makes me to wonder and ask, ‘where is the patriotism?’ How many Sierra Leoneans actually do things according the National Pledge? Very soon Sierra Leoneans will be bracing up to celebrate independence, though their minds have never been independent.
The judiciary seems to be weak . That is why suspected corrupt officials are often left the hook because Magistrates and Judges compromise their integrity to destroy important corruption cases. I can not be far from the truth when we look at the recent indictment of the Master and Registrar of the High Court of Sierra Leone, Yayah Mansaray and some of his staff for an alleged embezzlement of Le60 million; a fine of another corrupt matter of the Head of Department at University of Sierra Leone in a corrupt matter of given grades to students who do not deserve to be given.
The absence of integrity by such judicial officials may be one of the reasons why corruption is hard to fight in Sierra Leone. Imagine a custodian of rules and regulations breaking such rules and regulations with impunity! The potential corruption person will not fear to steal money meant for the people of Sierra Leone because he/she knows that even if he indulges in stealing or embezzlement, he will be able to bribe the gatekeeper of court cases and go free.
That is why the fight against corruption has been hard to fight even after the setting up of an Anti-Corruption Commission which was set through an Act after a rigorous reflection and series of Workshops at British Council Hall late 1999. For instance, when one of the facilitators was making his presentation during that Workshop, he informed how drivers in Hong Kong remove fuel from Government vehicles to go and sell.
Corruption did not start in Sierra Leone today. It has been with us when some us were adolescences. The then president of Sierra Leone, Dr. Siaka Stevens legalized it. He said, ‘ usai den tie cow na dea ii dae eat.’ Meaning, ‘a cow grazes where it is tethered.’ Thus corruption became in Sierra Leone like a seed which you nurse, water daily and grow into a tree with roots going in all directions. During the time of Siaka Stevens, only politicians, civil servants (hence vouchergate, pajerogate, etc), hajas and business men were corrupt. But the root of corruption are now embedded deep into the veins of Sierra Leoneans today that even a kindergarten pupil is corrupt and lie with impunity to spy during examinations. However, no cow is allowed today to tether at where it is not supposed to graze.
The Anti-Corruption Commission, Ben Keifalla Esq must try to succeed where his predecessors failed to minimize corruption. He and his men must find out why Sierra Leoneans are chronically corrupt. They should also look at how pervasive corruption has made Sierra Leone one of the Least Developed Countries in the world in spite of having all the important resources; human and mineral.
Some schools of thought argue that poor salaries are the reason why people are corrupt. But others argue that the most corrupt people are those who receive salaries that are commensurate with cost of living. Mr Keifala and team must look at all fields that provide essential services to the citizens. Why is the medical doctor, lawyer, judge, magistrate, teacher, lecturer, police, driver, to name a few, corrupt?
The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) must not look at the symptoms of corruption alone but the causes of corruptions and what better remedies to recommend and apply them to the letter.
Commissioner Keifala can learn from his predecessors Val Collier, Dr. Joko-Smart, Tejan Cole, Joseph F. Kamara and Ady Macauley.
What foundation is the Anti-Corruption Commission going to lay for our future leaders not to be corrupt? Already most future leaders apply to the police, military, and the institutions with fake certificates. What will the ACC do to stop these youths from becoming dependent on corrupt practices to get whatever they would want in future? How can the ACC restore vices and morals in conjunction with the Civic Education and Development Council?