The President’s Recovery Priorities have made governance a cross-cutting priority targeted at improving the delivery of basic public services across all the priority areas. Here at the Anti-Corruption Commission, our strategy to help achieve this objective is to enlist the support of citizens in the drive to tackle petty corruption within the public sector, through the ‘Pay No Bribe’ campaign – our new anti-corruption call-centre and on-line platform reporting mechanism.
‘Pay No Bribe’ gives us all a secure and anonymous way to report when and where we have been asked to pay a bribe by officials in the police force, or the water, education, health and electricity sectors in order to access services. It recognises that regardless of the amount of money involved, there is nothing petty about the corruption that ordinary people and organisations experience when they seek government services they are entitled to. It also recognises that we all have every reason to be concerned about it and do what we can to eliminate it from our public sector.
Transparency International describes petty corruption as the “everyday abuse of entrusted power by low- and mid-level public officials in their interactions with ordinary citizens, who often are trying to access basic goods or services in places like hospitals, schools, police departments and other agencies.” Individual demands for Le5,000, Le10,000, Le20,000 in bribes may appear small, but there is nothing petty about the amounts that can be accumulated over time.
Nor is there anything petty about resources that should fund vital goods and services being diverted into private pockets, or demands for gifts or favours in lieu of cash, which very often perpetuates the abuse of women. Evidence suggests that poorer women and girls are often asked for sexual favours in return for public services that they are entitled to.
For the most vulnerable and poorest in society, there is nothing petty about the proportion of their already stretched incomes that goes on bribes to access the services they desperately need – health, education, power, water and law and order. Nor is it petty when they are deprived of these services because they do not have the money to pay a bribe. It means children do not get the education they need to build a better future for themselves and our country; and the sick die because they are denied life-saving treatment or vital medication.
Corruption, however petty, diminishes people’s trust in each other, state institutions, their belief in local or national government and social values. It destabilises our society and contributes towards creating the conditions for conflict. No wonder the World Bank has identified corruption as among the greatest obstacles to economic and social development.
Fear of speaking out often deters people from reporting corrupt practices, however the fight against corruption and our ability to enforce anti-corruption measures, depends on knowing where it is taking place and who is behind it.
The ‘Pay No Bribe’ system is intended to work in tandem with the progress that is currently being made on developing a stronger criminal justice system, as well as improving governance, access to decision-makers and management controls. It will make anonymous reporting possible, and give us the data to assess the efficacy of our work to eliminate corruption in Sierra Leone.
The President’s Recovery Priorities represent a considerable investment in vital development initiatives across the country. Their success depends on ensuring that allocated resources are targeted where they are most needed. By using the ‘Pay No Bribe’ online reporting system, you can help make Sierra Leone’s recovery the success it needs to be.
Stop Corruption now and improve public service delivery, Full Stop!