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In Sierra Leone, don't call them bribes

On Transparency International’s latest Global Corruption Barometer, Sierra Leone scored worst of the sub-Saharan countries. But as Peter Clottey of voanews reported Sunday, Sierra Leone's leaders say TI has misunderstood the local culture.

'In our culture, it is normal, if you want to get land from the paramount chief you go with what we call, kola,' according to Richard Konteh, President Ernest Bai Koroma’s chief of staff. 'You give the paramount chief the kola as a sign of respect, that is not bribery. It is also part of our culture to show appreciation to people for good things that they’ve done to you, that is not bribery.'

In TI's latest Global Corruption Barometer, 84% of the respondents in Sierra Leone said they'd paid a bribe during the past year.

'The government disputes the report as not being statistically representative,' voanews said 'contending the sample size of 1,028 respondents in a population of about six-million people, the distribution of the sample population, and the sample frame was inadequate.'

Government spokesman Richard Konteh said TI also failed to credit Sierra Leone's leaders for their tough anti-bribery policies.

'The government has taken tremendous steps in the fight against corruption,' Konteh said. 'The president has outlined he will run a policy of zero tolerance against corruption. Anybody who is found guilty or indicted in his cabinet, he sacks.'

Konteh said TI’s report was 'insensitive' to efforts to attract foreign investment and improve lives.

Robert Barrington, TI’s Executive director, said, 'In terms of bribe paying, there are a couple of countries where three in four people say they have had to pay bribes in the past year. That is Sierra Leone and Liberia.'

TI's global survey found that more than one in two people thinks corruption in their country has worsened in the last two years. And 54 percent of those surveyed believe their governments’ efforts to fight corruption are ineffective.


Richard L. Cassin is the Publisher and Editor of the FCPA Blog. He can be contacted here.