BY: David K. Conteh…
Ebola has inflicted a devastating blow on the state of affairs in Sierra Leone and the West African sub region. It has become one of the world’s greatest challenges of the 21st century. The African Union, United Nations, ECOWAS and the international community are still grappling with providing a lasting solution to this predicament.
I see Ebola and corruption as bedfellows. One is a physical ailment, while the other is a social mayhem. They have similar trait and genes. Many nations are in shambles due to corruption. Like Ebola, corruption can demolish the socio economic fabric of an entire nation. Corruption had been lingering for centuries with no adequate solution. The more structures are instituted to combat it, the more the practice becomes sophisticated. Similarly, since 1976, the Ebola virus had been eating the fabrics of global security and also threatening human livelihood and existence. Scientists have gone to work since the first outbreak, yet their efforts have not produced any outstanding remedy. Similar to corruption, Ebola has another strange trait to mutate, which makes it very difficult for a single approach to succeed in its annihilation.
Ebola stigmatizes a whole nation. People from other nations; regardless of the existing international protocols and diplomatic relations, ostracise nations engulfed by the Ebola outbreak. Other nations work very hard to disassociate themselves with countries that are already suffering from this Ebola scourge. It is unfortunate though, but these countries, are trying to protect their citizenry, from this precarious disease.
Corruption has the similar tendency, though not equal to that of Ebola. Investors, business tycoons, and governments, who want to do business within a country, look at the suitability of the business environment before investment. One parameter used to determine a business friendly environment, is the spate of corruption. Investors will prefer to divert their efforts to countries with less incidence of corruption than investing in a country where corruption is rife.
The economy of every nation suffering from Ebola is likely to crumble afterwards. Huge sums of monies are needed to control and eradicate the scourge. Within five months alone, the government has spent billions of Leones in the fight against Ebola. This news by the Minister of Finance is worrisome. Sierra Leone was identified as one of the fastest growing economy in the world. That assertion could now be referred to as a lost reality and a dream to achieve.
Similar to that, economic instability is visible where corruption is widespread. State funds are diverted to personal pockets. Self aggrandisement is the order of the day. Instead of strengthening the consolidated fund, public officers beef up their personal accounts.
The Ebola outbreak has affected various sectors of society, including education and health. Schools should have reopened by now; but for Ebola, the reopening of schools has been postponed indefinitely. This has an adverse effect on education in this country. The children of Mama Salone are now stagnated, as they are also confronted with the problem of teenage pregnancy and other delinquencies, as rippling effects. It is a fact that corruption has negatively impacted the educational system; as bribery, extortion and professional misconduct by teachers are commonplace in schools.
The fight against corruption is as equally important as the fight against Ebola. Ebola is claiming many lives and corruption is doing like wise. Many of the lives swallowed by the activities of corruption are often latent. But when the systems are not working, the health sector is in disarray, the internal security threatened and business sector hindered by corruption, deaths associated with either of these variables, could be scored under corruption.
Notwithstanding the inimical similarities that exist between Ebola and corruption, yet the one has a role to play in silencing the other. The fight against corruption has a lot to do with the fight against Ebola. One may ask; what has ACC got to do with funds allocated to the fight against Ebola. In fact, we are in a state of emergency, another may say. Truly, the Anti-Corruption Commission could not be seen at the front line of the war against Ebola, but however has a role to play. I must remind the public that any funds, whether from the consolidated coffers, donations from countries and individuals, directed to the fight against Ebola; automatically become a public fund.
Funds are always limited in the fight against an epidemic as serious as Ebola. What makes it worse is when corruption interferes with the process of addressing the rampant spread of this dreadful disease. ACC must be seen to complement the relentless effort of Government, thereby ensuring that funds and resources allocated to the fight against the pandemic are not misappropriated.