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Sierra Leone police take over Le 80 billion in bribe - report says

By Tanu Jalloh

The Institute of Governance Reform today releases a report estimating that at least Le81billion worth of illicit payments were made to traffic officials in 2015 by nearly 60% of traffic offenders.

The method and conclusions the research which involved 500 motorists and traffic officers in Freetown also claimed that “government lost an estimated Le700 billion (32% of revenue) from license fees and potential fines for traffic offences that are not paid to authorised revenue collection agencies”.

The organisation, a local think tank in Sierra Leone, said that nearly 3 in 5 drivers said they paid bribes when stopped by police, noting that not all categories of drivers were equally vulnerable or complicit in paying bribes - government and nongovernmental organisation drivers were least likely to pay a bribe when stopped.

“Of those paying bribes, about 60 percent stated they paid between 5,000-20,000 Leones. Okada, ‘poda-poda’ and taxi drivers were the most likely to pay these sums (90%) while private vehicles were more likely to pay Le 20,000 and above.

“Forty six percent of survey respondents had been driving for less than five years.  The majority of Okada [bike] riders (70%) have been riding for less than five years”.

The group study found out that the most common traffic offences were license-related, noting that 31% of drivers reported that they were stopped for expired license, no license or use of private licenses for commercial purposes.

“The lack of a means of identification for some traffic offenders makes it difficult for police to dispense justice and track offenders.Being charged to court resulted in guilty verdicts for 98 percent of drivers,” the report said, adding that likewise, over 90% said that they could be put in prison if they pleaded innocent in court.

“Sierra Leone’s traffic regulations are somewhat vague with respect to what punitive measures should obtain for specific traffic offences. Taxi and Poda Poda drivers admitted to asking passengers to double or triple regulatory or official fares for distances in order to meet the demands of extortions.

“At least 85% of drivers said they made a daily payment of Le2, 000 or more to their unions. However only 15% of drivers reported benefitting from union membership”.

Meanwhile, executive members of bike riders union had also alleged that during the Ebola period hundreds of motor bikes were impounded by the SLP and their membership was concerned that the issues remained unresolved.

Efforts to get reactions from police spokesman proved futile.

(C) Politico 20/01/16