By: Usman Fambuleh - Intern, ACC
Corruption remains a persistent challenge in Sierra Leone, hindering the country’s progress and development. However, one powerful weapon in the fight against corruption but which is often underestimated by the citizens is PUBLIC EDUCATION.
Sierra Leone has made significant strides in recent years to combat corruption: from the establishment of the Anti-Corruption Commission in 2000, the legal and administrative reforms it has gone through, and the international conventions and treaties signed by the country, have all been pivotal in this effort. Nevertheless, corruption still infiltrates various aspects of society, from government institutions to daily life. Public education has been complementing these efforts by raising awareness, fostering transparency, and instilling a sense of accountability among citizens.
Education is a cornerstone in any successful anti-corruption crusade as it seeks to raise awareness among the populace and stimulates positive patriotic reactions within the population. Sierra Leone must invest in educating its citizens about the detrimental effects of corruption on society. This can be achieved through school curricula reviews and improvements, mass community outreach meetings, customized public awareness campaigns, judicious utilization of the mainframe and social media, etc. When people understand how corruption erodes quality and fair public services delivery, stifles economic growth and national development, and perpetuates inequality, they are more likely to reject corrupt practices.
Transparency is crucial in combating corruption. By educating citizens on their rights to access information and hold public officials accountable, by asking relevant questions, demanding transparency and reporting all suspected instances of corruption to the ACC, Sierra Leone can foster a culture of transparency and accountability in public life.
Public education programmes can teach citizens when, why and how to utilize information around important government documents like budgets for Local Councils, Ministries Departments and Agencies, contracts and bill of quantities for community projects and programmes, information of revenue generation, allocations to public service providing institutions etc. This knowledge empowers citizens and civil society organizations to scrutinize government actions, be able to detect suspected corrupt practices and report same to the ACC.
Accountability, not only on the side of MDAs but even the ACC, is another crucial element in the fight against corruption. Through effective public education strategy, the ACC can be able to account effectively on its stewardship in the fight against corruption. This is cardinal in ensuring and sustaining public support and ownership of the fight against corruption. This is hugely part of the reason why the Commission has always given consistent and timely updates to the public, because they see this as a means of being accountable to the public as well as soliciting citizens’ support in the fight against corruption.
When we have an enlightened populace, they can always take appropriate decisions and actions with regards the fight against corruption. ACC can continue to explore the establishment of more convenient and confidential reporting mechanisms that are easily accessible to the public, and ensure that whistleblowers are protected and encouraged to come forward. This is why the Commission continues to call on citizens to take ownership of the anti-corruption campaign, and even went as far as providing a reward scheme to encourage citizens to always report acts of the corruption to the Commission.
In addition to legal and institutional measures, instilling ethical values into the populace, public education should emphasize the values of integrity, honesty, and fairness from an early age, (Catch Them Young). Schools, universities, and other educational institutions can play even more significant roles in imparting values, expected behavioral standards and norms that can serve as a counterbalance to the allures to corrupt practices. Through the Commission’s Public Education and Outreach Department, there has been a very robust ‘Meet the School’ campaign, which seeks to instill the values of integrity in school pupils.
Public education can be a powerful force in the fight against corruption in Sierra Leone. By raising awareness, fostering transparency, instilling accountability, and promoting ethical values, it empowers citizens to become active participants in the anti-corruption effort. Sierra Leone should recognize the transformative potentials of education and make it an integral part of its strategy to create a more transparent, accountable, and corruption-free society. This is very important as the country embarks on developing the fifth generation of the National Anti-Corruption Strategy, which has always had public education as a critical component.