Delivering his statement, Wilfred Bangura, Sub Regional Manager in Kono, emphasized the efforts of the Commission to ensure that remote communities in Sierra Leone had access to information to contribute to the fight against the depraved acts of corruption.
He said corruption wrought great havoc on development efforts, and in the process exacerbated poverty particularly in rural areas. “While corruption distorts public services such as schools and hospitals in urban areas, it does so more in rural areas where the facilities are often barely available. The lack of valuable information with regard to public services worsens the situation,’ he explained.
According to Mr. Bangura, community-owned initiatives in the campaign against corruption would make a huge difference. Such initiatives, he said, would reflect the views, ownership, and commitment of communities in stemming corruption. The Manager further stressed that the Commission was not ubiquitous and therefore could not detect incidents of corruption in every corner of the country at the same time.
‘This is why your involvement to fight off corruption in and out of your community is crucial. Once you understand the harm of this national menace, once you make a common resolve here today against corruption, you all will have shown great patriotism and joined ACC in a truly national challenge,’ Mr. Bangura implored.
‘One major way to defeat corruption is to form a Committee that has an oversight of monitoring all public service providers operating in your community. The Committee will serve in the interest of the community by ensuring, for example, that your people are not exploited by paying bribes for any services at all,’ he added.
As a preventive approach, this kind of engagement fosters awareness about corruption within communities in keeping with objective 2 of the National Anti-Corruption Strategy (NACS) 2019-2023, which was launched on the 14 August 2019 in Freetown.
Taking a cue on the issue of the Committee, Public Education Officer (PEO), Edwin Nathaniel Blake, pointed out that the oversight committee should also pay attention to projects designed for its community. He said, ‘If you have a project, your committee should ask the implementing agent as many relevant questions as possible, all in the bid to ensure the project is fully implemented to serve its purpose in your community.’ He added that, in most if not all instances, rural authorities and community members assume they have no business asking questions about projects being carried out in their communities. This assumption, he explained, is wrong because people should be involved in the implementation of projects designed for them. ‘Sitting back and not showing interest in a project you own can foster corruption.’
Speaking in the Kono language, PEO Aiah Sourie, said in addition to forming a committee, reporting corruption to the ACC pays off a great deal. He said reports on alleged corruption could be made by calling 515 on Sierratel, Orange and Africell networks free of cost. ‘Our doors at 37 Masingbi Road in Koidu are also open to the public every weekday between 8:30 am – 4:45pm in the event you want to pay a visit to report corruption or make enquiries.’ PEO Sourie, however, lamented the low report level on corruption particularly from rural settings.
Aiah D. Gbessay, the chief of Moyima, acknowledged the role of the ACC in tackling corruption. He said the engagement had come as a pleasant surprise and that he, as well as his people, had seen the reason and way to kick corruption out of his community. And furthered that he had not been aware he and his community could play a key part in the national struggle against corruption. ‘One of our major challenges in fighting corruption at Moyima was the lack of information. We didn’t know much about the ACC, let alone how to organize ourselves to fight against corruption. But I think now the story is different.
Tamba Musa, who represented the Youth Leader in the meeting, said the youth also have a very important role to play in subduing corruption in Moyima and the country at large. He suggested that his peers should acknowledge their leaders and help in small-scale community projects such as brushing paths and building or repairing bridges to boost communication between his community and neighbouring ones. ‘When the structures to combat corruption are put in place here, I am sure our leaders will need our cooperation and we will gladly give it to them,’ Musa said.
Voices from the Women’s Group also expressed similar sentiments on the note of a collected effort to keep Moyima clean of corruption.