From the Editor’s Keyboard

Is Sierra Leone winning or losing the war on corruption?

12 April 2009 at 05:26 | 532 views

Mohamed C. Bah-Guest Writer and Ex-President, Sierra Leone Community, Atlanta, USA.

As our nation prepares to celebrate its 48th independence anniversary,the most daunting challenges confronting Sierra Leone today is how can we define a new independent thinking of fighting poverty and diseases,improving the basic livelihood of our fellow citizens and forming peaceful alliances within our society to promote national progress.

For more than four decades,we have not comprehensively sought the path to sustainable economic growth that is akin to the kind of political independence we fought for and have so rightfully earned in the community of nations. Sierra Leone,as a young nation,needs more visionary and gifted leaders from all professional and political circles, where the social and moral evils that impede progress are distanced from our desire to pursue a cohesive politics that brings diverse views and people together,teach Sierra Leoneans to love one another instead of fear and isolation.

Furthermore,our anniversary of freedom must be celebrated by promoting a culture driven mentality of fighting a new political war against one of the oldest anti-social behaviors(corruption) which have ruined so many lives and stagnated a promising nation from moving forward into the shores of prosperity.

If political independence is to be realized,corruption should be reclassified as a very serious threat that continues to weaken the economic and human development of our country. This problem really threatens the stability of our national survival. We must fight corruption, both morally and politically, with a grounded thinking and serious anti-corruption efforts through ambitious goals: such as new economic independent strategies and legal legislation to regulate such anti-political behavior. Together, with a no-nonsense leadership,we can redraw the war zone and unleashed our ground offensives to defeat the enemy commonly known as “CORRUPTION”.

If we do not have an anti-poverty agenda with a track record of progress equally doing the role of investigating areas of inadequacy and poverty-stricken cities,towns,villages and preventing diseases,infant mortality, low educational standards,poor infrastructures,and other human services,the celebration of our independence would be just a window dressing, an abstract thinking and believing that we are free but actually more dependent on the very nations we sought our freedom and liberty from.

THE EVIL FACE OF CORRUPTION

Indeed,the potential of a little girl or boy in Sierra Leone may never be realized if corruption takes a front seat on our government structure. If public servants deplete government revenues by “misusing” or “misappropriating” funds/resources,our national income will continue to be significantly reduced,foreign investments discourage ,sustainable national development and infrastructural projects will seriously be compromised with no completion. If we do not combat corruption as a common threat, our independent from Britain will be a mental hallucination rather than the a true definition of self-rule or self determination. Thus, we must see corruption not as a political party problem or a regional problem,but as a national problem that needs a collective solution from every Sierra Leonean. I think, we must reorganized and take a new independent approach to confronting this complex problem.

Realistically, the anti-corruption Act, 2008 is a very compelling corruption-fighting tool that have the legal hallmarks and political merits in addressing an aging national problem. Retrospectively,it was deliberately enacted to “plug a hole in the the Anti-Corruption Act, of 2000.” That the previous act,did not go far enough in its provisions, especially when viewed on the United National Convention Against Corruption and the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption both of which Sierra Leone have ratified. That this new legislation gives broader powers to the commission to arrest,prosecute and convict corrupt public officers. I commend the Attorney General and his legal staff for crafting a fine piece of legislation with the blessing and approval of Parliament.

CORRUPT ACQUISITION OF WEALTH

However, the anti-corruption Act, 2008, if properly implemented without prejudice will profoundly close the door to a shameful chapter in our nation’s history. Nonetheless,this giant legislative effort is only one leg on the stool and cannot by itself solve this widespread epidemic that have destroyed the moral foundation of our

nation. If we do not learn to work together in good faith and practice the principles of

“integrity in public life”,let us be rest assured that we have a darker and dangerous future ahead. That in our self-serving human failures, we will have nothing to pass on to the next generation but a nation suffering from the reality of “moral bankruptcy”. If we glorify the "corrupt acquisition of wealth" or the " Misappropriation of public funds or property" as a reason to serve in government,we are predicting and creating a a future that is devoid of compassion and human progress Whatever the political equation we belongs to, corruption is a national problem and it is time to end it as we know it. We must go further in targeting the root causes of why it exist in our society. Until poverty,greed and the lack of patriotism are dismantle and defeated, this 800 pound gorilla would continue to be an unwanted guest in our midst.

The legal instruments of the anti-corruption Act, 2008,indeed, are not the only prerequisite to a corruption-fighting solutions, corruption is a symptom of a socio-political malaise that have slowly permeated our society for generations. Unless, we balance the goal of preventing corruption by addressing the primary causes,we will never be able to enforce the consequences of such political nightmare. If we fight against the agents that breeds this anti-social practices by disinfecting the cesspool of our political structure with the strong philosophy of "no-matter- what,-just-do-the-right-thing" kind of attitude, then millions of our fellow citizens today would not go to bed hungry or lack the basic opportunity to live their dreams.

THE SOLUTIONS

However, for Sierra Leone as a case study, poverty and human greed are the enablers to this growing complex problem. There must be a two-prong approach to improving human capitals,providing essential services,increasing pay rate to reflect global inflations to our public servants and correspondingly implementing Part IV and Part V of the anti-corruption Act, 2008 whenever there are infringed upon or grossly violated. It is not either one or the other,it is both: Poverty Prevention and Corruption Fighting Mechanism. Indeed,Sierra Leone ranked 150 out of the 180 countries listed on the corruption perception index by Transparency International (an international global advocacy group that fight against corruption). According to an ongoing research at the Word Bank, more than USD 1 trillion is paid in bribes each year; a comprehensive estimate of worldwide corruption would well exceed USD 1.5 trillion annually. The research also revealed that “the countries that tackle corruption and improve their rule of law can increase their national incomes by as much as four times in the long run and child mortality can fall by as much as 75 percent.” Another research by IMF showed decreased investment patterns by almost 5 percent in countries infested by corruption.

I firmly believe that one of the most fitting way we can celebrate our independence anniversary is to reaffirm a new commitment to fighting corruption with an ambitious mind set that this monstrous enemy will not have the oxygen to breath and survive in our nation. Thus,the government of Sierra Leone should focus on the following corruption fighting-solutions:

* Promotion of good governance at all levels of government

* Political will from those who govern to discourage corrupt practices

* Criminalization of corrupt officers through prosecution and conviction

* Comprehensive legislation to expand the power of the anti-corruption when legally needed.

* Promote leadership like Zero-tolerance and setting examples through asset declaration

* Review and strengthening of the judiciary system to dispense impartial justice

* Review and reform of government procurement system to control theft/misappropriations of funds

* Strengthen public financial management system to track potential fraud/theft

* Code of conducts and ethics to govern the performance of pubic officers

* Educational strategy to bring awareness to the problem

* Partnership with stakeholders as a national anti-corruption strategy

* Civil society and the public role of reporting corrupt behaviors

* Broader management and implementation authority for a national anti-corruption strategy

CONCLUSION

As we continue to give our public leaders the trust and privilege of serving our great nation,we hold them to higher standard of Integrity in Public Life to fully comply with Part VIII section 119 that: “(1) Every public officer shall within three months of becoming a public officer deposit with the Commission a sworn declaration of his income, assets and liabilities and thereafter not later than 31st March in each succeeding year that he is a public officer, he shall deposit further declarations of his income, assets and liabilities and also while leaving office.” Thus,it is most patriotic to rightfully ask the question as we celebrate our 48th independent anniversary: Is Sierra Leone winning or losing the war on Corruption?

Comments