THE COST OF BRIBERY IN SIERRA LEONE
By: Joseph Kangaju
The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary defines bribe as “a sum of money or valuable that you give or offer to persuade people to help, especially by doing something dishonest.” The practice of the act of giving or taking of bribes therefore is known as bribery. This practice is different from a gift. A gift is mostly given not to persuade but out of genuine intention, a present or reward especially on a special occasion or to say thank you. Bribery is a common occurrence in different transactions in the world. Many of those involved in the act of bribery have exclusive reasons for practicing it.
Perpetrators of bribery are individuals that mostly end up having their way even though they may lack the required standards of an establishment. They succeed in actualizing their selfish desires at the expense of deserving individuals.
The practice of bribery is common in both the public and the private sector. Government institutions such as Ministries, Departments and Agencies as well as schools, universities and other corporate institutions have been greatly affected by bribery. Many individuals that work within these institutions deeply believe in the practice of bribery to have government contracts, secure fake results or admission to universities. In reference to the Millennium Development Goals of making sure all children are in school and that women get proper health care by 2015, it was observed that many regions are behind on achieving the set targets. New findings from the United Nations show that global development commitments – called the Millennium Development Goals – are off track because of bad governance and corruption. People from these same regions are more likely to pay bribes when seeking and using basic services. (Transparency International’s Global Corruption Barometer 2013)
Individuals in different institutions negate from such professional and ethical standards to gain their selfish objectives by practices which relegate the institutions to lack of accountability and consequently underdevelopment.
The cost of bribery is now more visible in Sierra Leone than before. Perpetrators use polite names such as “cool water” “tips” “shake hand” or “thank you envelop” to launder its harmful practice in society.
Recently, a report on the action to withhold some public exams results has been traced to the ardent practice of bribing teachers for grades and fake results for entry to higher educational institutions. Cases of perversion of justice and malpractices in the judiciary have become highly alarming. The Sierra Leone Law School, the only institution to produce certified lawyers was recently investigated for cases of bribery and corruption that resulted in key staff members’ retirement and suspension.
Many development goals such as increasing access to health care and literacy, road network, electricity and water supply are undermined by the very nature of bribery and corruption. Two ministers in key ministries (Ministry of Works and Country Planning and Ministry of Energy and Water Resources) were sacked because of poor performance that was traced to deep seated corruption in their respective ministries. The ministry of energy responsible for electricity supply performance has proven unsatisfactory, and leaving many corporate institutions and key MDAs out of electricity, thus seriously affected productivity, investment and other developmental projects. Senior management members are believed to divert administrative funds to their personal pockets.
Such practices of bribery and corruption have been identified by many world organizations as a key obstacle to development. The lack of transparency and accountability, the practice of bribery and corruption make institutional growth and development very difficult to come by. In other words, a country can only come to realize development when those set standards of development are fully met. The cost of bribery and corruption is very serious, strong institutions that are to encourage development are relegated to stagnation and ineffectiveness. These institutions do not contribute to national progress but rather suppress and discourage investment and entrepreneurship. The current backward and poor performance status of the University of Sierra Leone is a clear case to explain the meaning of bribery and corruption.
To this end, efforts to fight corruption, poverty and build infrastructure will continue to be undermined unless new development goals include specific targets for increasing transparency and the ability of citizens to hold their leaders and local services to account.Start writing here...