How corrupt practices continue to add Economic and Political Problems in Sierra Leone

27 December 2009 at 02:24 | 877 views

By Dylan Sogie-Thomas, London, UK.

The main aim of this article is to highlight how poor governance has led to increase in fraud and corruption and why it is important for APC to change their practices in order to fight poverty and promote development. This article should be used as a guide in assessing our present government as they continue to award contracts and deal with the present rice scandal.

The word corruption is not new to Sierra Leoneans as they have observed politicians and connected persons, break, weaken, spoil and ruin a system or institution. The United Nations Convention against corruption has listed the offences below and recommended that they be declared crimes by state parties to the convention and Sierra Leone is a member state:

1. Bribery of national public officials.

2. Bribery of foreign public officials.

3. Embezzlement, misappropriation or other diversion of property by public officials.

4. Trading in influence.

5. Abuse of functions.

Corruption can occur in all walks of life and it will involve decision and authority through political and institutional processes that are not transparent and accountable. Corruption is an economic issue as corrupt governance will not offer citizens adequate and accurate information about government and policies. Corruption reduces the effectiveness of industries and will lead to illegal business operations especially where a single individual or family may have authority to issue permits, receive subsidies, receive or grant contracts and overlook violations of the law.

In Sierra Leone, where corruption is endemic, politicians tend to exploit the economy to enrich themselves and members of their family and rule of law gives way to rule of brutality, bribery and violations of Human Rights. Without Good Governance, Human Rights cannot be respected and protected in a substantial manner and good ideas like Attitudinal Change will be useless slogans as they are not implemented.

Corruption is now part of our social, cultural, political and economic structure and takes place when public officials develop power to grant concessions, divert public resources, issue illegal permits, authorise illegal tax waivers and harass ordinary citizens to pay taxes and allow connected businesses not to pay the appropriate taxes.

In Sierra Leone, we must have seen or heard that only certain families are receiving government contracts and tax waivers because the head of the family occupies a very important position. The public service or distribution of valuable benefits and imposition of onerous costs is generally under the control of public officials who possess discretionary power. Corruption can easily be noticed by changes in one’s personal or family lifestyle and is a symptom that something has gone wrong in the management of the state. It also shows that the resources are used for personal and family enrichment and provision of benefits to the corrupt.

Sierra Leone under the present APC has led to monopoly of powers of certain citizens and government employees having no accountability to report government affairs to the public. Corruption occurs where government employees continue to use their power and discretion to grant favours, and having little accountability for their actions.

Corruption becomes endemic where the rule of law is weak, law enforcement agencies are themselves corrupt and Anti-Corruption officials are afraid to prosecute sacred cows. In Sierra Leone corrupt government officials have no fear of exposure or being caught as they hope to get away with their corrupt reward if caught. Corrupt officials and citizens enjoy protection from being prosecuted due to weak legal, accounting and auditing system. In most cases government officials are able to manipulate official records and get away with impunity as the auditing system is weak and has poor support from parliament, the Anti Corruption Commission, and get away because the whole system becomes corrupt beyond repairs.

Corruption can take the form of bribery, kick backs or bid rigging and auditors in most cases are not allowed to investigate actual acts of corruption but support investigators. In most corruption cases it is difficult to quantify or report the actual event of corruption as there is no documented evidence. Auditors’ reports cannot classify any observation as corruption but can classify their observation as fraud if they have sufficient evidence.

Corruption prevents development, changes priorities in public spending, and preserves the status quo and increases suffering on the poor. Corruption reduces delivery of public service, leads to frustration and pain on the common citizens who are honest, educated and intelligent but lack the connections to be part of the status quo.

Sierra Leone is poorer overall as corruption levels are high and citizens are not informed about government activities, procedures thus compromising their right to political participation. In Sierra Leone, poverty, poor health, low life expectancy and unequal distribution of income and wealth are the effects of poorly functioning government.

Good Governance is what Sierra Leoneans need and Good Governance practices are fundamental for an improved investment climate that will ensure economic growth, combat and address corruption.

***The author, Dylan Sogie-Thomas(photo), is pursuing a Masters degree in Corporate Governance/Graduate ICSA at the London’s South Bank University, United Kingdom.