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IGR releases groundbreaking paper on ‘Understanding Corruption in Sierra Leone’

How Informal Norms & Value Systems Aid and Restrain Corruption in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone is making strides in the fight against corruption. Since the enactment of the ACC Act in 2000, there has been a progressive march by civil society actors and anti-corruption advocates towards institutionalising the fight against corruption, even if that desire has not been reciprocated by political elites. In 2008, former President Ernest Bai Koroma signed into law the revised Anti-Corruption Act that gave prosecutorial powers to the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) among others. In the last six months president Bio has appointed a dynamic and forward-looking ACC Commissioner and the government appears to be showing some level of commitment towards enforcing the rule of law with established rules and procedures to minimize waste in the economy.

The results of progress in the last two decades has been validated as Sierra Leone has achieved the US Government benchmark on control on corruption under the Millennium Challenge Corporation programme. However, as we celebrate world corruption day on 9th December, Sierra Leone still has a long way to go in meeting integrity standards to better manage the economy more efficiently. Economic indicators have not made much progress since the war, while social indicators such as education, health and water remain a source of concern. The ACC was ostensibly established in 2000 to pursue and fight public sector corruption. The focus of the commission is largely guided by Transparency International’s definition of corruption i.e. as “abuse of entrusted power for private gains”. Formal institutions such as the police, politicians and social service providers such as health and education authorities and their patrons have all been targeted. There is a belief among development partners and national policy actors that building integrity systems to make institutions respect formal rules can in the end make
Sierra Leone less corrupt. While this approach is helpful, this paper argues that privileging the application of formal rules in the fight against corruption in societies where dominant informal rules and value systems are rooted and contradict western understandings of integrity, will not address the underlying causes and drivers of corruption.

The paper, makes this argument by using interview data collected from 1000 citizens across the country around questions of local norms and value systems that impinge on personal integrity and public attitudes towards corrupt practices when they have a vested personal interest. This paper is part of IGR’s advocacy campaign to elevate the fight against corruption beyond formal institutions to include informal transactions, routinized local practices and values’ systems that undermine public confidence and trust. The paper aims to inform reflections on the fight against
corruption as we commemorate International Corruption Day.

Download PDF copy of paper here: Understanding Corruption in Sierra Leone 

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