BY ALIMAMY LAHAI KAMARA
It is not surprising that corruption spans beyond borders, beyond the African border, beyond the Arab World, to the West and to Asia. What may not be unsurprising are the unprecedented measures countries are taking for stamping out the menace. Sierra Leone, for example, has instituted several measures to tackle the scourge, and in the last three months the agency mandated by law to lead the fight has launched a national document giving direction as regards the tackling of the scourge for the next five years. We will revert to the National Anti-Corruption Strategy 2014-18 later.
Corruption, like a disease, is a venomous infection with the undoubted propensity to overturn a wealthy nation into a poverty-stricken one; a prosperous state into a failed state; and hardworking people into a frustrated indigent lot. Nations have come to grips with the complex nature of corruption that now appears to be an elitist syndicate, which practice involves mostly highly educated people, or people with long-standing experience in the unlawful act to afford them luck of ‘bingo’. Perpetrators are consciously redefining methods in an effort to beat modern systems insulated against graft.
The types of corruption happening in Africa including Sierra Leone in the last five years involve hi-tech manipulations whose prevention requires constant calibration of existing mechanisms, regular update or redesign of national strategies, adequate awareness campaigns, and appropriate capacity building of anti-corruption watchdogs. Most times states get re-energized in the fight when their leaders take the fore-front, often make public pronouncement as a show of commitment, allow independent anti-graft bodies carry on their functions, and take drastic actions against high public officials suspected of involving in the unlawful act. In Sierra Leone, for example, President Ernest Bai Koroma demonstrated this commitment by strengthening the anti-corruption laws and in the last three months by making a clarion call for the combating of bribery in what is now referred to as the Pay No Bribe Campaign.
Across the globe, in China, President Xi Jinping made an unreserved statement rallying the nation towards a national resolve of fighting corruption. On taking up office he said: “we must uphold the fighting of ‘tigers’ and ‘flies’ at the same time resolutely investigating law-breaking cases of leading officials…” President Xi’s categorization provides a refreshing understanding of the kinds of perpetrators of the cesspool of corruption. The ‘tigers’ are the bigwigs in society – the socially
ensconced people such as Ministers, Directors, Permanent Secretaries, Commissioners – who occupy positions of trust including those in the business sector namely entrepreneurs, contractors, consultants, whose interest lean towards personal aggrandizement and siphoning of public funds. Their tendency however is to use public office for private advantage (Palmer, 1993: 40). This relates to the arrogation of unlawful wealth for oneself and for one’s relatives. Corrupt practices involving the ‘tigers’ are grand-scale and their detection can be far more complicated. How then to hunt the ‘tigers’?
Conversely, the ‘flies’ are the low-level people in society that range from those who are in the middle-level cadre in Ministries, Department, and Agencies (MDAs) constituting the bulk of the workforce. They include heads of units, secretaries, clerks, tellers, and those in the private sector such as sole traders, petty traders, and taxi drivers. They mostly indulge in petty bribery and other acts of corruption and sometimes provide assistance to the tigers; but the effects of their acts can be uncontrovertibly disastrous. Like hunting the ‘tigers’ which is dangerous, swapping the ‘flies’ is increasingly becoming technical, since their use of ICT poses a challenge for their nabbing. How then to swap the ‘flies’?
The answers can be found in the NACS 2014-18, a document developed by Sierra Leoneans, a five-year plan guiding the course in the fight against corruption. It contains expert views and opinions of the common man as to how public institutions can be corruption proofed and how the tigers can be hunted and caught and the flies smacked. NACS provides for what is referred to as the risk-based due diligence approach to addressing institutional corruption. This preventive method seeks to identify corruption risk spots in Ministries, Departments and Agencies, not excluding the private sector, and institutions with high propensity for involving in corrupt practices, and proffers corruption prevention and suppression measures to management framework for the closure of loopholes and for the adoption of best practices. This is to eliminate the ‘soil’ which breeds corruption before the tigers and flies consider feeding upon it. Institutions with high risk of being corrupt can be put under scrutiny by law enforcement agencies, including the ACC. The document sets parameters which institution should meet before being put under the microscope. 1, they should engage in service delivery; 2, they should implement donor project above 500,000 UD dollar; 3, their procurement should constitute significant percentage of government procurement. If an institution meets all three requirements it automatically falls under the microscope for constant monitoring. A high-level diligence – an inquiry exercise – will be necessary to investigate its operations and performance on set objectives. Medium-level diligence can be conducted on institutions that meet two of the criteria and as well as low-level diligence on those that face low-risk and meet only one requirement.
Integrating anti-corruption mechanisms by MDAs as it relates to them can enhance their management practices and professionalize their operations in a way that allows them to measure quality, save time, increase efficiency and deliver speedy and timely services. Anti-corruption measures are integral framework in the reform agenda – an agenda that prevents corruption, enforces the law, and suppresses the agents of corruption. Institutionalizing anti-corruption initiatives, I reason, should go concurrently with campaigns for the change of attitudes and behaviors and for the adoption of integrity. This is the moral anti-graft measure. A society that is mindful of its moral and cultural obligations is a society that reflects and transforms its aspirations into policies congenial to socio-economic and political development. Sierra Leone is increasingly becoming mindful of those moral and cultural values and as such has begun translating them into development programmes. The friendly socio-economic and political environment is now creating opportunities exposed not only to Sierra Leoneans but to tourists, diplomats, and international investors. The Anti-Corruption Commission is one of the pillars that has created that enabling environment. It is hunting the ‘tigers’ and swatting the ‘flies’.