Vickie Remoe Institute of Digital Communications

Sierra Leone “is most corrupt” because you pay ‘somtin small’ for everything


Sierra Leone most corrupt nation on earth


A recent Transparency International report on corruption and bribery  has divided Sierra Leoneans into two camps. In the first there are pro-government folks who say TI as an institution has no credibility. In this camp you’ll also find those who also argued that the East African’s F grade for governance given to President Koroma in the papers’ 2012 Leadership Index was also baseless.

In the second camp you’ll find the majority of Sierra Leoneans who would probably say that they did not need a report showing what many have already experienced especially amidst banking and NRA scandals. If you lived in Sierra Leone in the last 10 years chances are you had to pay a fee to someone in public service as an incentive for them to do their job. You pay either to encourage them to do so in a timely manner or to just do it at all. This is not to say that you have to pay all civil servants, but often times if you don’t pay a bribe, your problem remains untreated.

Perhaps you’re bidding for a government contract, and you feel that  others submitting a bid might make your documents disappear before ever they do the bid opening so you pay “somtin small” to keep you bid in tact. Maybe you get the contract, and you head to the Ministry of Finance where government payments are processed, when you get there you know that you have to pay “somtin small” to make sure that instead of 1 year maybe you get your payment in 6 months. The thing is no one is going to ask you to pay, but you know if you want things to happen “somtin small” for pass.

Other times a mere 5,000 or 10,000 leones can make the difference between getting your passport in 5 days or 30 days. Or you may be at the airport trying to leave the country and the staff there checking your suitcase will ask “wetin yu di lef foh yu broda dem now?” As they say, their facial expression and body language will say “sometin small so we don’t check your bag”.

In another other instance a customs official may tell you that you goods have arrived and that he can do clearing for 5% of the value that you would have to pay the government. Then he would tell you that for paying that much, you would get your goods in today. He would then casually inform you of your option to wait for Intertek to go to Lungi Airport to evaluate the goods. At which point he’ll also let you know that once that happens it will be out of his hands. Then he’ll tell you that you should know that they have reclassified the rates on the goods and that everything has gone higher with the dollar. It wont make any sense to you, but you will understand that today, you must pay “somtin small”.

So, TI’s report  is of little value. In fact, the report itself other than causing debate is rather useless to people in Sierra Leone. The real and perhaps more pathetic issue here is that the average Sierra Leonean has no confidence in their public institutions. When they go for public goods and services they know that if “dem noh pay somtin small natin no go apin”.

But how long pan dis? You go to a hospital, and you give “somtin small”  to the nurse so she would take more care of your family member because you’re not sure if she will do her best if you didn’t do so.

Global Corruption Barometer 2013


  1. Jane 11 July, 2013 at 08:05

    Really bad!
    A bad image for the country and even we Sierra Leoneans
    How are we expecting investors to come to this country with this kind
    of image? Seriously it a pity that we cant help our country for a better name
    We are the goverment nobody gonna build that country is we serra leoneans.
    Lets us lerne from other countrys like Gambai ,Nigeria and Ghana etcs.
    The Goverment cant do all alone we sierra Leoneans have to support and help build the land for better.

  2. Augustine 11 July, 2013 at 08:13

    This is exactly what is happening, all aspect of sierra leone is full of bribe. Yesterday my closed friend has a problem with his cousin so we decided to take the matter to the family support police station at aberdeen, could you believe the police asked us for a sum of 50.000 leones to come and make an arrest, he was so desperate dat he told us he can only come for 30.000 leones, he continued to say “this is early mornining man nor dae joke sef wit money, if una wan make ar go una park fine for me” we just return home.

  3. PEL Koroma 11 July, 2013 at 14:32

    It is sad what is happening in our country. Yet the government is so dishonest and unreliable. They have been putting up stout resistance to a true story as that published by TI. Rouges in all sectors, and the irony is clear when the government keeps on amplifying their success in the Agenda for Change. Nothing has changed, and the political actors have continued to show lack of integrity, and patroitism
    The people do not trust, nor respect the leaders of the nation. Corruption is a scourge in our society, and no body is fervent about reducing it.
    It is a shame that my country has been ranked as the most corrupt country in the world. We should be determined to clean up the mess, but unfortunately, people have failed the people in the past. so who will win the confidence of the people

  4. Abu Bakarr 14 July, 2013 at 04:17

    It would be a mistake to portray the corruption in Sierra Leone as something imposed on the populace by bribe-loving government officials. The average Mohamed or Saidu likes giving bribes just as much as the person receiving them.

    Case in point: It’s more or less Le 500,000 to get all the right papers for an okada. Many would rather pay 5000 here and 3000 there to get an unlicensed bike past a checkpoint than front the Le 500,000. Then when the police actually do a raid and seize a bunch of paperless bikes, the okada riders complain that the police are following the letter of the law.

    There are countless other examples where citizens and foreign residents prefer to take the convenient (and often cheaper) shortcut of paying bribes rather than doing things by the book. And I don’t see what all the fuss is over. The system works. And who’s to say it’s actually not more efficient to have gov’t workers receive X % of their salary directly in cash in the form of bribes.

    The real problem is not bribes. It’s massive fraud and misappropriation of government funds by high-level officials. Day to day bribery like the sort being discussed here actually gives underpaid workers a chance to make ends meet.

    When people pay bribes to avoid official taxes/charges/duties, the gov’t is deprived of revenue, and could make the argument that they can’t afford to pay gov’t workers a wage high enough where they won’t be tempted to accept bribes. But that’s assuming that money going into goverment coffers would actually be used responsibly and in accordance with the law. Until that assumption becomes valid beyond a reasonable doubt, I’m fine with people needing gov’t services just paying the worker directly via a bribe. Or policemen supplementing their pathetically low monthly salary by taxing okada riders who don’t have a helmet.

    And for those who don’t want to pay a bribe, then let the guy at the airport check your bag. Your bag gets checked at every other airport in the world and you don’t get a choice in the matter.

    Leh God Bless Salone!

  5. Vickie Remoe 14 July, 2013 at 04:46

    To say that the average person in Sierra Leone “likes” paying bribes is as erroneous as saying that all public officials take bribes.

    I think the larger problem is that no one has any faith in local institutions. There is an automatic assumption that monies collected when they get to the top are like you said misappropriated. So most prefer to pay the man at the bottom a small bribe than pay full price to the man at the top.

    Whatever the system is in Sierra Leone experience its very broken. Not irreparably so but definitely broken. And in a country like b ours, I feel if you count all the 5000s paid to police and other small big men and women, that all of those bribes account for much less than what big men and women at the top siphon off in procurement deals, contracts, and donor funds.

    And yes I absolutely agree re customs at the airport. Every time someone offers to not search my bags at Lungi for a fee I simply tell them that I absolutely understand that they are just doing their job and that they should. Most times they just frown and wave me to go ahead though this action always accompanies what I like to call the “you’re bad cause you’re right thing” growl.

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