The national struggle against corruption in Sierra Leone today goes far beyond civil society organisations’ compliance with the Anti-corruption Commission. More elusive is the deep and worsening trust deficit that exists between institutions and individuals.
The far-flung belief that public and private institutions are not acting in the interests of the people they are supposed to serve diffused through the thinking of communities across the contraption. Civil Society and news organisations, which have historically served as the watchdog for Ministries, Departments, Agencies and business people, are less trusted by the public than ever before.
Public confidence has been corroded by a concentration on near-term priorities and payoffs, propelled by election-cycle politics or quarterly results targets that too often leave children worse off than their parents. Instead of looking toward a sustainable future that works for everyone, many have been left with a sense of desperation about the ideals of progress in addressing social service protection for the good of all nationals in Sierra Leone.
We must make integrity the norm, driven by public-private cooperation, innovative leadership, and effective technological tools. As is often quoted, sunlight is the best disinfectant. Transparency is more important than ever. We must remember that the business community, too, is a victim of corruption.
THE POWER OF MESHWORK:
Partnering against the corruption Initiative is one of the cross-industry collaborations the Anti-corruption Commission should conduct. In years to come, the Anti-corruption Commission must seek to rebuild trust in both the supply and demand side—working with Ministries, Departments, Agencies, journalists, business leaders and civil society to promote transparency.
The Commission needs to build networks across sectors and supply chains to encourage best practices and share products that improve transparency. For example, one promising new advance is “speak-up systems,” which will encourage individuals to report questionable or corrupt behaviour from peers or supervisors.
Harnessing new technology is also important, creating opportunities for us to engineer corruption out of the system. New systems like distributed ledger technology—a formation of replicated, shared, and synchronised digital data nationally spread across multiple sites or institutions across the contraption —can contribute to creating a more secure environment for real-time data sharing.
KEY OUT THE CHOKE POINTS:
The Anti-corruption Commission must up its game to identify and announce new measures in its latest step toward restoring trust: A Strategic Dialogue Series will be useful here. By convening government and business leaders from diverse regions and sectors in the contraption, the Commission will create opportunities to develop knowledge and share practical solutions.
First, they will invite business executives and public officials around the contraption to participate in an anonymous survey. The Commission and other leading experts will analyse the results to identify opportunities and challenges for effective public-private cooperation on the issue of battling corruption.
Next, they will convene government Ministers, heads of Departments, Agencies and business executives to discuss issues and bottlenecks and then identify and prioritise solutions. The Commission will encourage them to propose and advocate actionable solutions.
Finally, the Commission will provide an interactive platform to distribute key findings. To foster transparency, the Commission will publish all findings to inform and stimulate further collective action.
WHAT BUSINESS CAN AND SHOULD DO:
Advancing the Anti-corruption agenda is more than a business imperative: it is our duty, and it is in everyone’s interest. We must preserve and nurture the niche in which we do business. We must uphold our business integrity, enhance transparency, and maintain robust checks and balances on inappropriate behaviour.
Promoting an ethical culture is a necessary element of good management. The best way to protect this culture is to actively promote it from the top—with the clear commitment of leadership to a culture of integrity and to the fundamentals of effective corporate governance: fairness, accountability, transparency, and responsibility. And the commitment must be ongoing and continual.
The business community is uniquely situated to help unite all elements of society to identify and share innovative ways to develop collective action, deepen our shared understanding of the issues, and prompt change. Now is the time to develop working solutions that combine strong corporate governance and effective Anti-corruption initiatives to restore trust in our governments and corporations.
Fidelity in rebuilding trust is essential to the success of businesses, governments, and societies around Sierra Leone. The system simply doesn’t work without it.