In a bid to suppress the high incidence of illegal charges, and mitigate corruption in schools, especially on the school fees waiver scheme instituted by the Government of Sierra Leone; the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) dialogued with Principals from various schools in Freetown. This engagement which was factored into their normal meeting as Conference of Principals was held at the Government Rokel Secondary School, Tower Hill Freetown on Thursday 21st May 2015.
Making his presentation, ACC’s Deputy Director of Public Education and Outreach Patrick Sandi encouraged the principals of schools, whose constituency he considered very core in the educational sector to be upright and dedicated in controlling graft in their institutions. Mr. Sandi proceeded by enumerating gains made by the Commission.
The National Anti-Corruption Strategy 2014-18 he maintained, has brought in the aspect of mainstreaming anti- corruption policies aimed at the prevention and reduction of corruption incidences in MDAs. Mr. Sandi further stated that the Integrity pact recently launched by the Vice President Victor Bockarie Foh is a contractual agreement between the public and private sector premised on ensuring integrity in the transaction of business. By the same token, heads of MDAs signed the Integrity Pledge, vowing to uphold the tenets of integrity in their dealings with the private sector.
Mr. Sandi dilated on many issues ranging from the Asset and Liability Disclosure regime, Citizens Service Charter, to the pilot phase of the Social Safety Net (SSN) in which the grievance redress mechanism is solely handled by the ACC. He drew the attention of principals to the National Public Perception Survey 2014 that also brought the Ministry of Education and Health to the lime light in aspects of prevalent corruption. He therefore implored the heads of schools to work closely with the ACC, in order to change those perceptions.
Public Education Officer David Kanekey Conteh catalogued practical corruption issues existing in the school system. In describing teaching as a noble profession, Mr. Conteh said there are unscrupulous individuals who are bent on tainting the integrity of an institution which is expected to possess very high moral standing. Illegal charges, extortion and bribery are common place in schools, he stressed. Mr Conteh encouraged principals of schools to institute internal control mechanisms to eradicate corruption in schools. The free toll lines operated by the ACC for reporting corruption were presented.
Moses Bangura, Monitoring and Compliance Officer of ACC made a reflection of findings from monitoring exercises carried out on schools by the Commission for the past four to five years. Mr Bangura said teachers’ absenteeism and lack of commitment have become alarming in schools these days. Teachers abandon their post for months, but yet receive salary at the end of the month. The issue of ghost teachers on the pay roll was not an exception. According to Mr. Bangura, principals maintain names of teachers who have left the profession in the vouchers at the expense of those new teachers who are to be included on the voucher.
Speaking on behalf of his colleagues, Sylvester Meheux, Chairman Conference of principals said they have chosen the teaching profession as against other gainful careers as a sacrifice to nation building. When responding to some of the accusations made with regards corruption in schools, Mr. Meheux entreated the Commission to verify those complaints, as they are sometimes unfounded. As he guaranteed the Commission on the integrity of colleagues, Mr. Meheux assured the Commission of the total support of principals in making Sierra Leone a corrupt free nation.