A whole new debate on the relationship between low salaries and corruption has sparked up in several institutions and parastatals including Ministries, Departments and Agencies, with each and every person holding his/her personal view on which of the two, leads to the other in Sierra Leone.
On Thursday 11th July 2013, our team held exclusive interviews with senior Sierra Leoneans on their takes on the hot argument. Below are their views.
National Vice President of the Sierra Leone Labour Congress, Mr. Jennings A. B. Wright said low wage provides incentives for corruption. He described the national minimum wage in Sierra Leone as ďnot only starvation but ridiculous and criminalĒ and that low salary is one key factor that leads to corruption.
ďThe road to commit economic offences is great because people are not earning enough to take care of their familiesĒ, he noted.
Hon. Tamba Sam, National Publicity Secretary of the main opposition Sierra Leone Peopleís Party (SLPP), holds a different view to Mr. Wrightís argument. For him, the issue of corruption has been in this country for donkey years. He said even during the days of the colonial masters, there was corruption and corrupt individuals in Sierra Leone.
Hon. Tamba Sam went on that even though workers in those days were receiving very high salaries, yet most of them were still corrupt. He said it will be unfair for anyone to say low salary is responsible for corruption in this country.
For him, the increasing rate of corruption is Sierra Leone is mainly as a result of bad governance. He said politicians, since independence have been in the habit of spending money to buy votes and gain power and that once they are now in power, their first desire would be to steal from the countryís resources through corrupt means. The honorable said this has also been replicated in several institutions where people bribe to gain employment and once they get the job, they start stealing.
All Peopleís Congress (APC) Member of Parliament (PM) for Constituency 62 in the Tonkolili district, Hon. Aaron Aruna Koroma in his view, blamed the lack of content mind in some people for the increasing rate of corruption in the country and not on low salaries.
He cited a scenario where someone was seeking employment as a driver in a company and that the day he was employed, the day he started stealing auto spear parts and fuel.
ďCan someone blame low salary for this manís corrupt act, even though he was yet to know his salary?Ē Hon. Koroma asked. He said even the recent corruption saga involving some National Revenue Authority (NRA) and bank staff has nothing to do with low salaries, as according to him, all the allegedly corrupt accused persons were on very high wages at their respective institutions.
Hon. Rado Yokie of the SLPP representing Bo district, said it is said in economics, the law of diminishing return that ďthe more you get the more you wantĒ adding that no person is ever satisfied with his salary.
He said some Sierra Leoneans will always be corrupt even if they are paid the highest salary on earth, noting that low wage has nothing to do with corruption. He said people need to be honest to their conscience, be patriotic to their country and stop blaming low wages for their corrupt acts.
Honorable Paramount Chief Joseph Ali-Kovura Kongomoh II of Fakunya chiefdom in the Moyamba district said, the argument that low wage is responsible for corruption in Sierra Leone is partially correct. He said it is also true that in most institutions in Sierra Leone, highly paid staff such as directors, supervisors and managers are the most corrupt people than the cleaners and messengers who receive little or no salaries. However, he said on the other hand, corruption is lesser in countries where wages are high and meets cost of living of residents. In this regard, he went on, low wages cannot be unconnected with corruption as each of them can be causers of the other.
A mobile phone and assessor seller on Garrison Street, Joseph Sesay, hold the view that corruption is just a bad habit dived in the minds of some Sierra Leoneans.He said for some people whether they are bountifully paid or not, they will still be corrupt.
He gave examples citing government and bank officials who are highly paid but yet are still corrupt.
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Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.