By Kemoh Saidu Sesay
In a sobering revelation, Transparency International’s 2023 Corruption Perception Index (CPI) Report, which has spotlighted Sierra Leone’s ongoing struggle with corruption, reveals a landscape marked by persistent challenges.
Released on 30th January 2024, the report paints a painfully detailed picture of corruption’s deep-seated roots within the nation’s public sector.
Despite the snail pace of progress scored 34/100 in 2022 to 35/100 in 2023 and ranked 108/180 countries assessed, this staggering revelation suggests the nation’s battle with bribery, extortion, alarming embezzlement of public funds, political interference with the justice system, among others, continue to smash citizens’ hope of economic improvement against the rocks of entrenched greed and selfishness from a small canopy of corrupt elites.
One of the critical observations of the report is the prevalence of corruption across various levels of the public sector. Transparency International identifies instances where corrupt practices undermine trust in public institutions, creating an environment of scepticism among citizens.
The report emphasises the necessity for enhanced transparency and accountability mechanisms. While the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) is alleged by most Sierra Leoneans for the selection of persons of interest for corruption allegations, the report underscores the need for robust institutions that can effectively oversee and prosecute instances of corruption without dangling sentimental prejudice.
Corruption’s impact on essential public services is a significant concern highlighted in the report. Sectors like healthcare, education, and infrastructure and the like, have excruciatingly suffered, as funds intended for public welfare are wickedly diverted for personal gains. This diversion exacerbates existing social inequalities and impedes the government’s ability to address endemic poverty and social reconstruction.
Transparency International’s report urges President Bio’s government to prioritise anti-corruption efforts, as he is expected to prioritise his catholic lifestyle; emphasising the critical role of political will in fostering effective governance. The report also calls for the empowerment of civil society, encouraging non-governmental organisations and the media to act as watchdogs in exposing and combating corrupt practices.
As Sierra Leone stands at a crossroads, the 2023 CPI Report serves as a call to action, urging a justice system that can punish corrupt people without fear or favour, with a collective commitment to building a more transparent and accountable future.
Ending on the note from the Chair of Transparency International, François Valérian, “Corruption will continue to thrive until justice systems can punish wrongdoing and keep governments in check. When justice is bought or politically interfered with, it is the people who suffer. Leaders should fully invest in and guarantee the independence of institutions that uphold the law and tackle corruption. It is time to end impunity for corruption.”