FINDINGS OF THE CORRUPTION PERCEPTION SURVEY: A MOCKERY OR A WAKE-UP CALL FOR PUBLIC INSTITUTIONS?
By Abubakarr Turay
The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) on Thursday 17th July, 2014 launched the 2013 National Corruption Perception Survey Report. The report was formally launched by the Governor of the Bank of Sierra Leone, Momodu Kargbo at an event attended by senior officials of government ministries, departments and agencies, civil society organisations, development partners and the media.
As most organisations conducting a study of such nature would do, the ACC, with support from the World Bank, contracted a credible and independent body, the Centre for Development and Security Analysis (CEDSA) made up of mostly senior lecturers of the University of Sierra Leone, including former dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences and Law, Dr. Osman Gbla.
According to the survey, respondents (meaning, the people of Sierra Leone) perceive the Sierra Leone Police, National Revenue Authority and the Judiciary as the most corrupt institutions in the country. There are also grim statistics for the Ministry of Health and Sanitation and the city and town councils.
Many a time, when such reports are launched, institutions not comfortable with the findings will be in the media rejecting the report, and for most times, questioning the credibility of the report and its authors. Thank God that I haven’t heard any formal statements dismissing the report since its launch. As I said in one of my previous articles: You solve a problem half way by understanding its true nature. And I must also state that the major step of understanding the nature of a problem is to recognise its existence, and not deny it.
The truth is that corruption has been with us since only God knows when. Previous studies, especially Sierra Leone’s Truth and Reconciliation Report, highlighted corruption as one of the main causes of the country’s decade-long civil war that not only halted but also reversed all form of social, economic and political development in the country. The more grim effects of the war include the thousands of lives lost and the amputations and scars caused to those of us who dared to survive it. After the civil war the country decided to set up an anti-graft agency because we already recognised that this menace was in our midst and therefore the need to fight and eradicate it.
Corruption perception surveys are carried out across the world to gauge people’s perceptions about corruption as they relate to their day-to-day quest in accessing public services. The wide media coverage given to them may appear like naming and shaming institutions, but they are not meant for witch-hunting or attacks against any particular individual or organisation.
As for the National Corruption Perception Survey Report 2013, this, thankfully, almost coincides with the launch of the National Anti-Corruption Strategy (NACS) 2014-2018, the roadmap for the country’s fight against corruption for the next five years. Its overarching objective is to “provide credible data that will feed the NACS monitoring and evaluation framework…and strengthen government’s commitment to fight corruption.” If the main objective of the report is to strengthen government’s resolve in the fight against graft, then all institutions of government named or not named in the report must see it as a tool to mainstream anti-corruption measures in their institutions in order to ensure improved and better service delivery and value for money. This is why the Chairman of the launching programme and Deputy Commissioner of the ACC, Shollay Davies, called on institutions not to view the report as an instrument to stigmatise or ridicule any individual or institution. And the Commissioner of the ACC, Joseph Fitzgerald Kamara, went further when he called on all public institutions to work to mainstream anti-corruption measures in their activities. For the Commissioner, this requires the institutions to go back to the drawing board and find ways to improve services in order to change the negative perceptions people have about them.
Having stated the above, I will now call on all public institutions, especially those with damning statistics in the report, to see the report as a tool to mainstream anti-corruption measures in the workplace, and not one meant to make mockery of them or put them in public ridicule. The objective for us all should now be about image building to the people we serve. In as much as we work to deliver services we should also take into consideration what the people (the customers/clients of the public sector) think about us and the services we deliver to them. Let us start thinking about good image building as not only the exclusive preserve of the private sector but the public sector as well. Imbibing the values of integrity, accountability and transparency in our workplace will go a long way in attaining a favourable public image.