Sierra Leone — A report on corruption in Sierra Leone by a coalition of civil society and media activists, “The Citizen’s Agenda for Prosperity” (CAP) has indicted the Sierra Leone police of taking bribes and denying the government of the needed revenue for national development.
The report, CRITICAL PERSPECTIVES OF GOVERNANCE VOLUME 6, Jan 2016, captioned ‘Corruption Stops with Us: Ending bribery for traffic offences in Sierra Leone’ measures the volume of financial loss from bribery in a particular sector and illustrates the various forms and patterns of illicit transactions in this sector.
Through interviews with 500 drivers and police officers in Freetown, the coalition learned that an estimated Le81 billion was paid to traffic officials in bribes to settle traffic offenses in the last twelve months. This means that government is losing an estimated Le700 billion of domestic revenue from unpaid fines as the monies do not go through official revenue channels. The report shows the depth of citizens involvement and complicity in corruption.
The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has showed concerned about the findings of the report, stating it had taken steps to address this situation; with the engagement of security agencies in October, 2015 which led to the setting up of a sub-committee which developed an Action Plan, aimed at reducing the incidences of bribery in the security sector.
“The ACC is implementing a three-year Pay No Bribe (PNB) program, funded by the Department for International Development (DfID), which seeks to eliminate bribery in public sector institutions, the police included, for effective and efficient public service delivery.
However, the Commission is also calling on citizens not to only report acts of bribery and petty corruption, but to also refrain from giving bribes to public officers.”
Summary of Main Findings and Conclusions
- It is estimated that at least Le81 billion worth of illicit payments were made to traffic officials in the last one year by nearly 60% of traffic offenders. Government lost an estimated Le700 billion (32% of revenue) from license fees and potential fines for traffic offences that are not paid to authorised revenue collection agencies.
- Nearly 3 in 5 drivers state they pay bribes when stopped by police.
- Not all categories of drivers are equally vulnerable or complicit in paying bribes: Government and NGO drivers were least likely to pay a bribe when stopped.
- Of those paying bribes, about 60 percent stated they paid between Le5,000-20,000. Okada, podapoda and taxi drivers were the most likely to pay these sums (90 percent) while private vehicles were more likely to pay Le 20,000 and above.
- Forty six percent of survey respondents had been driving for less than five years. The majority of okada riders (70 percent) have been riding for less than five years.
- The most common traffic offences are license-related. A total of 31 percent of drivers reported they were stopped for expired license, no license or use of private licenses for commercial purposes.
- The lack of a means of identification for some traffic offenders makes it difficult for police to dispense justice and track offenders.
- Being charged to court resulted in guilty verdicts for 98 percent of drivers. Likewise, over 90 percent said that they could be put on remand if they plead innocent in court.
- Sierra Leone’s traffic regulations are somewhat vague with respect to what punitive measures should obtain for specific traffic offenses.
- Taxi and podapoda drivers admitted to asking passengers to double or triple regulatory or official fares for distances in order to make up for revenue lost to bribery.
- At least 85 percent of drivers said they made a daily payment of Le2, 000 or more to their unions. However only 15 percent of drivers reported benefitting from union membership.
- Executive members of the Bike Riders Union also alleged that during the Ebola period hundreds of motorbikes were impounded by the SLP and their membership is concerned that these issues remain unresolved.