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Date: 2018-01-11

“I have said it times without number – in anywhere I go, in any place I hold meetings – that any staff who indulges in acts of bribery will be severely dealt with, if not suspended or expelled,” Bo District Medical Officer says at a DHMT meeting with the ACC. DR. Turay holds the view that to tackle bribery in the health sector firm statements have to be made, stringent actions have to be taken, and monitoring of personnel has to be strengthened.

He appears to be a friend of the Commission – punctual at its meetings, prompt at taking decisions, and firm at instituting policies regulating conduct of medical officers.

I do not wish to accord him congratulations, but he is the kind of complaisant personality affording space to the Commission to address personnel at in-charges meetings monthly held.

His intolerance to bribery is not only marked in his views as he expresses them, for instance when he says that even a single complaint of bribery is unacceptable since it has the tendency to cost a life, but is felt in his actions where he had to institute administrative measure against staff some of whom he had expelled and many others he had transferred.

The fight against bribery is not only restricted to the health sector, but progress there highlights the fact that getting the right man to do the job, is a job done. Views of public officers on social issues largely determine their attitude towards them, and indicate actions they may take to address them. For Dr. Turay, Sierra Leone will grab the many opportunities on the path towards prosperity when the fundamental stumbling block – bribery – is tackled and addressed. He understands that no way will our beloved country climb rungs of human development while bribery continues to sabotage progress, a signal for economic instability and social unrest.

Additionally, ACC Commissioner Ady Macauley keeps on to say fighting corruption should not stop at mounting sensitizations, reviewing systems of public entities, and prosecuting the corrupt, but should extend to public officers holding strong views or making strong public commitment statements or denunciations of the bane, indicative of an expression of responsibility to taking action.

Strong statement can come from anyone especially senior public servants with authority to direct policy actions. ACC Southern Regional Manager Samuel Marah at a meeting with EDSA staff shares the view thus: “electricity is a crucial commodity. Operations of government offices and private enterprises hinge on availability of electricity power. And in the homes, every single Sierra Leonean will like to enjoy energy power; therefore, we cannot afford to tolerate petty corruption and bribery in the sector.” The Engineer for EDSA would talk and act tough. Seiya says at a meeting addressing his staff that he stands ready, will take lead in this, to support the ACC in ways possible to address malpractices at EDSA.

Engineer holds the view, which I share, that tackling graft the desire to addressing the problem has to come from public officers themselves. Responsibility should not be quickly shifted to the public to make report. Officers have to exhibit a high sense of value and an unquestionable mark of integrity to look consumers or customers in the face – when they stand at some distance; in the eye, when they stand against their desk – and say: sorry, I am paid for this service! I am sorry, thank you! Rejection of the gift or bribe! Intolerance to bribery has to start there, that way public confidence is assured, images of our institutions built, integrity of staff maintained and service delivery increased.

I countenance the Engineer’s view – a quintessence of good character that should define official relationship with the public. However, I am encouraged by the fact that people now hold opinions, and will share them, on various subjects characterizing society. Our democracy is now tolerant to open discussion on corruption, and on many other issues, if not on any issue, unimaginably. Just the liberty to talk about corruption or to venture to accuse people of being corrupt points to a stage of social and political consciousness of a people who forty years ago had maintained sealed lips on critical social matters.

Say what you may, we are now talking! We are pointing fingers at people perceived to be corrupt. The Sierra Leone Police in Bo is also talking; is acting; is dismantling checkpoints across the district and organizing sensitizations at divisions. But officers below the rank of the AIG appear to be doing the talking and appearing at strategic ACC meetings held to foster collaboration in order to tackle bribery, especially in the traffic. Personnel in units such as Traffic, CDIID, Operations and Inspectorate show interest. But outcomes of the meetings they attend will be largely unimplemented because the top appears uninterested.

Junior officers will allot time to ACC activities, talk against bribery, and recount actions taken. I recall Acting District Traffic Officer Bo West, Lilian Saidu, at a stakeholder traffic sector meeting recounts thus: “commercial motor drivers and riders carry excess passengers. Riders and pillions do not wear crash helmet; plenty bikes and many vehicles are unlicensed; and passengers and goods are crammed into vehicles. When we arrest and charge them to court, they see us as bad police officers. We are just doing are job.” We know that drivers and riders may do everything to prevent being charged to court. To circumvent the law in this instance will mean paying a bribe. Lilian says they are viewed as bad police officers, meaning they charge to court. And it is so because they hold the view that bribery is an offence against the State.

Public statement or public denunciation of corruption is an expression of commitment: pledging individual or institutional support to institute or implement anti-graft measures, and rallying societal support to uphold values discouraging the menace. Holding views that speak against corruption by ACC partners will stimulate interest in the fight, strengthen commitment to tackling it, and compel action on the ground.

Certainly, views or public statements or public denunciations of bribery are an expression of our resolves against the threat. Let us keep making them.

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