In the 10th Edition of the Global Corruption Barometer –Africa 2019 Transparency International and Afrobarometer it was indicated that in the DRC, eight out of ten citizens accessing services have to pay bribes. In Liberia it was almost half and that goes also for Sierra Leone at 52 percent, meaning half of the citizens have to pay bribes.
What is good about this latest Report as far as Sierra Leone is concerned is that only 43% said corruption increased in the past year – 2017/2018, compared to 70% in 2014. 52% of public service users in Sierra Leone said they paid a bribe in 2017/2018; 26% said the government is doing a bad job of tackling corruption; and 39% thought that ordinary citizens can make a difference in the fight against corruption.
The Report also encompassed that there are also improvements in the percentage of people who think that most or everyone working in key public institutions in Sierra Leone are corrupt.
In 2017/2018, 24% of people said that the President office was corrupt, compared to 48% in 2014.
The perception levels of citizens in Sierra Leone about their Members of Parliament being corrupt went down in 2017/2018 to 25%, from 50% in 2014.
In 2017/2018, 33% of people said that Government officials are corrupt, compared to 55% in 2014, with the percentage for Local government officials falling from 49% to 22%.
Sometimes what explains improvements is the array of anti-corruption measures in place. Generally, in the Report it was noted that most people think that corruption is increasing and governments are not doing enough.
Paul Banoba, Africa Regional Advisor for Transparency International revealed that most people in Africa feel corruption has increased in their country. He said at the same, the majority feel that they, as citizens, can make a difference in the fight against corruption.
Paul Banoba maintained that the trigger for actors to take action is usually a report. “The first step would be that we have an increased number of reports about where corruption is happening. But people need to be safe and encouraged in reporting corruption. Some of the ways in which this can be clear to them is through legal means, the availability of whistle-blower protection legislation and mechanisms and the clarity of the information of this availability. So they know that this exists and they can trust it. Then the number of reports is increasing and the State can take action,” he stated during the launch of the Report recently.
He said we also need to remind citizens that we do have a responsibility as individuals to be of integrity saying if everybody acted with integrity, then ideally they are shooting corruption out. Banoba said it is the responsibility of citizens not to offer a bribe because often bribes are not solicited but instead offered underscoring how that would also be a contribution in the fight against corruption.
Banoba stated that where there is good rule of law and good practices with regard to it and well-resourced institutions with clear mandates, it improves the functioning of the State. And when that happens and leadership is committed, it trickles into social will. Where society trusts, it increases the relationship between the State and its citizens and then we have a situation that is continuously going up.
The Police was highlighted by citizens as the institution to which they had to pay the most bribes to access services. Police is the law enforcement institution and there is a high interaction between people and the Police to report incidences of crime. They are powerful and where that power does not have accountability and no clear commitment from the top leadership, we would have challenges.
It was mentioned that Money laundering and foreign bribery also play a large role in corruption. What was also underscored is that there is a lot of infrastructure development going on in Africa right now and a number of service providers are international actors.
“We are recommending that laws should be put into place, a number of frameworks for anti-money laundering laws. We are asking that they should be enforced in Africa but also in the home countries of these companies so these companies behave responsibly when they are doing business in Africa. We are also calling for good standards and guidelines for ethical procurement, because a lot of the bribery would speak to the procurement process,” he furthered.
The Report indicated that where political will is clear, there will be improvement in the fight against corruption. It always starts at the top level of leadership. Policies have to be made clear and followed consistently, regardless of who is involved. The laws must be applied uniformly without impunity exercised. That builds confidence in society.
In reality it seems rather problematic to uphold the laws in place.
It stated that Members of opposition in Parliament have a role to play as well as coalitions of civil society and oversight institutions in pointing out the problems.
“It is a far from easy task. In fact, it is a daunting task. We have to remind our leaders on a daily basis if people are failing to access basic services that they, as leaders, have committed to provide. It means resigning to living in a dire situation and keeping people in poverty. These are the consequences of this type of measure and this is what the report that we are putting out today reflects,” Banoba concluded.