October 2, 2022

Over 300 police officers of the Sierra Leone Police have gone for several months without salaries from the government of Sierra Leone.
The non-payment of salaries was a direct result of a verification exercise conducted by the National Civil Registration Authority (NCRA) mid last year.The verification came immediately the current government was ushered in 2018 to which all public and civil servants were subjected.
It was designed to track down ‘ghost’ workers in government service including the Sierra Leone Police. Within the Sierra Leone context, ‘ghost’ workers syndrome refers to personnel who do not exist but salaries are paid by government. Such unnecessary payments are widely believed to cost the government hundreds of millions of Leones as they go into private pockets of heads of government institutions.
A source at Police headquarters who spoke on condition of anonymity told this medium that after the verification exercise by NCRA, it was discovered that the affected police officers did not enter the police service with “valid certificates.” “The failure to present genuine academic credentials during the verification caused the problem,” The source stressed. The affected police officers, the source continued, are not only deprived of their salaries but also faced with disciplinary investigations. Criminal investigations are also expected to follow. If convicted, the police officers would lose their benefits for the number of years they had served the country, and, most likely, placed behind bars. The Complaints, Discipline and Internal Investigations Department (CDIID), the SLP disciplinary wing is handling the investigations.
One of the affected police officers explained to Nightwatch that he had served the force for over five years when he was “arbitrarily removed” from the force. He stressed that his academic credentials he presented to the police force for recruitment were genuine. “For over five months now, I have gone without salary. The non-payment of salary has caused too much hardship on me. For now, I have no other work to do,” The officer said in tears. “My children are no longer attending school because there is no money to take care of them,” he emphasized.
The NCRA verification did not only affect police officers but also other government agencies as it was clear that thousand of ‘ghost’ workers were discovered by the verification exercise and subsequently lost their jobs including NCRA staff. As a result of the job losses, one of the police officers stated that he was particularly targeted because on regional grounds.
At the CDIID headquarters in Freetown, one of the female police recruits was arrested and brought in by a CDIID investigator at Police headquarters in Freetown. The investigator alleged that during last year recruitment process into the SLP, it was advertised that suitably qualified persons with degree certificates should apply. Women were given top priority with special preference for those with legal and medical qualifications. The lady in question, according to the investigator, submitted medical certificates believed to be false. The suspected police officer, he continued, was at the Police Academy at Hastings in Freetown when she was arrested for alleged falsification of documents. The investigator stressed CDIID would not hesitate to investigate and prosecute all those involved in tendering “counterfeit papers” to gain admission into the SLP.
The affected police officer, however, told Nightwatch her academic certificates she submitted were genuine. “I did not falsify any of my certificates before I was admitted into the police,” she said in tears. “I am ready to face any investigation because I am confident that I did the right thing,” she emphasized.
The SLP, over the years, have created and maintained a system of checking academic credentials for potential SLP recruits as well as serving members of the police force to prevent the proliferation of false papers in the police service. For serving members who benefit SLP study leave would have their academic credentials cross-checked by contacting administrative heads of universities and colleges where they claimed to have attended. The process involves the origination of a verification letter from CDIID to the registrar of the universities and colleges. The reply from such institutions would either qualify or disqualify the SLP personnel.If qualified, necessary financial arrangements are undertaken by the SLP Human Resource Department for an increase in salary which is a charge on the consolidated revenue fund.
The safeguards adopted by SLP management were meant to forestall unqualified candidates entering the police service and to save the country’s money. But the proliferation of counterfeit academic credentials by serving members is not unusual. Both SLP potential and serving members tend to beat the system with the hope that their actions would go unchecked, but the reverse has occurred.
On the eve of the 2018 electoral period, President Maada Bio campaigned on the platform of blocking leakages and the proceeds of which would used to finance meaningful national development projects. At the time the president was granting interviews to foreign media, notably the BBC; he stressed that the then government encourage “leakages and reckless spending” in state governance which, he said, was making life hard for the average Sierra Leonean. By blocking such leakages, he hoped, there would be an economic boom in the country.