By: Martina George- Communications Officer, ACC
Corruption has been a major challenge for Sierra Leone’s development and economic growth. The private sector has a role to play in the fight against corruption, but this role is both significant and challenging.
Sierra Leone has been ranked amongst the most corrupt countries in the world from bribery to embezzlement and other forms of graft; corruption has suffocated the country’s development aspirations, creating a vicious cycle of underdevelopment, poverty and inequality. The Government has taken several measures/strides to tackle corruption, including the establishment of Anti-Corruption bodies such as the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), but there is still much work to be done.
The private sector plays a crucial role in combating corruption by promoting transparency, implementing robust ethical standards, and fostering a culture of integrity within businesses. Companies can establish strong Anti-Corruption policies, conduct regular internal audits, and collaborate with Government agencies and civil society to create a collective effort against corruption. Additionally, adopting fair business practices and engaging in corporate social responsibility can contribute to a more ethical business environment.
The private sector is a crucial partner in the fight against corruption in Sierra Leone. It has vested interest in tackling corruption because it affects business operations and undermines the rule of law. Corruption raises the cost of doing business, discourages investment and reduces competition. Additionally, companies that engage in corrupt practices risk legal and reputational damage, which can harm their businesses.
In recent times the Anti-Corruption Commission, Prevention Department engaged Private Sector Stakeholders in an inception meeting to discuss ways, in which they can combat, collaborate and consult on corruption prevention activities in the various Private Sector Institutions. The meeting which was attended by Government officials, representatives from different institutions, took place on 23rd August, 2023 at the Integrity House Conference Room, Tower Hill, Freetown.
The discussions were centered on the importance of transparency and accountability in the private sector, as well as the need for collaboration between different stakeholders to effectively fight corruption. Corruption prevention in the private sector should commit to working together to develop strategies and initiatives to tackle corruption in the business sector. This includes exploring the possibility of establishing a task force that will increase the role of the private sector in monitoring and reporting on corruption issues.
One significant role the private sector can play in the fight against corruption is the promotion of good governance practices. Companies can develop strong ethical guidelines for their operations, ensuring that suppliers and business partners adhere to these principles. They can also advocate for transparency in Government procurement processes, paying taxes and regulatory compliance.
Another role the private sector can play is supporting Anti-Corruption institutions such as the Anti-Corruption Commission Sierra Leone (ACC). By providing financial support and technical expertise, the private sector can strengthen the capacity of the ACC to investigate and prosecute corrupt individuals and entities more effectively.
However, the private sector in Sierra Leone also faces significant challenges in the fight against corruption. One challenge is the lack of a level playing field, as there are companies that refuse to engage in ethical practices. Corruption is often entrenched in many sectors of the economy, making it difficult for companies to operate without engaging in corrupt practices.
Another challenge is weak enforcement of laws and regulations. Even though Sierra Leone has laws in place, enforcement is often weak and perpetrators are rarely held accountable. This lack of accountability undermines public trust in institutions and fuels a culture of impunity.
The private sector faces challenges in identifying and addressing corruption risks. Companies need to conduct rigorous due diligence on suppliers and business partners to identify and mitigate corruption risks. This can be difficult in a country like Sierra Leone, where corruption is embedded in many sectors of the economy.
The private sector has a significant role to play in the fight against corruption in Sierra Leone, but it also faces several challenges. The private sector can promote good governance practices and support anti-corruption institutions, but it needs a level playing field, strong enforcement of anti-corruption laws and regulations and improved risk assessment mechanisms. The private sector, together with the government and civil society, can work together to create a corruption-free Sierra Leone which provides opportunities for equitable economic growth and development.
Finally engagement with private sector stakeholders represents a significant step forward in the fight against corruption in Sierra Leone and highlights the importance of collaboration and partnership in tackling such complex issues.