Humanitarian gestures and philanthropy could not be done if the notion is uphold and maintained that since taxes are paid to any Government of the day then all must lie back and wait for development, of whatever magnitude to be undertaken by Government simply because we are paying taxes. Simple economics tells us that human wants are many amidst scarce resources. Government has too many things on its plate to address warranting individuals and organizations to undertake certain development interventions.
History is replete of patriots, well-meaning individuals who have demonstrated a high sense of commitment to uplift their fellow compatriots from the abyss of poverty by giving humanitarian gestures not to talk of championing certain community development projects that impacted positively and continue to do so on the lives of the vast majority residing within those communities where those projects were implemented. In this case we are referring to well-meaning citizens. This trend continues to date.
But besides good individuals who contribute meaningfully to development, there is the expectation that companies located within certain operational areas should help foster development via what is known as Corporate Social Responsibility.
According to Jason Fernando, a notable international personality, “Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a self-regulating business model that helps a company be socially accountable to itself, its stakeholders and the public. By practicing CRS, also called Corporate Citizenship, companies can be conscious of the kind of impact they are having on all aspects of society including economic, social and environmental.”
As one school of thought tried to argue it is not obligatory on the part of companies to honor their CSRs as opposed to paying taxes to Government furthering that it is the responsibility of Governments to do so from the taxes it collects from companies, however, this medium begs to differ.
Best practice requires that it is but prudent on the part of corporate institutions or companies to champion certain development interventions in their areas of operations.
This brings to the fore the issue of one of the leading water bottling companies in the country, Gulf Mineral Water and Beverage Company, situated at 5 Smart Farm, Off Wilkinson Road in Freetown.
The company stands accused of failing to be honoring its Corporate Social Responsibility in the locality where it is located. Residents of the community have expressed their indignation against the Management of the company. Of serious concern to them is the way the operations of the company has seriously damaged the road on which the company is situated also used by residents. The fleets of the company’s vehicles that constantly ply the route to and fro, coupled with the Guma Valley Water Company water bouncers that supply water to the company have jointly contributed to immensely exacerbate the deplorable condition of the road on a daily basis.
The situation is one that is so mind boggling to such an extent that, besides the deplorable condition of the road, the haphazard manner in which the company’s “supplying vehicles” are packed with reckless abandon makes it quite difficult, if not making it very impossible for residents with vehicles to have convenient spaces to pack and at times move out their vehicles, trying to get out of the community. As it is the inconvenience such poses is sometimes unimaginable.
When a concerned patriotic resident raised up the issue months ago with the Management of the company, the Managing Director, sincerely promised that it is on their top priority list to ensure that the road is mended creating the impression that it will soon take place. However, since that promise was made no positive move has been seen on the part of the company’s Management to fulfill their promise.
It will indeed surprise many to know that the company is not strictly complying to safety standards for its workers, most of whom are deliberately used as casual workers. The workers do not have safety equipment while working within the factory posing serious health hazards. Besides, their generator plant is positioned in such a way that it produces gaseous emissions that the powerless and unsuspecting employees inhale just in the bid of making a living.
Indeed, it must be reiterated that the road is really in a deplorable state and is a complete eyesore.
Interestingly, after reneging to fulfill its promise, Management went ahead to convene a Press Conference on the 1st October, 2021 at the company’s premise during which it made a lame attempt to refute the company’s inadequacies. Instead of seriously sticking to the issue, lamentably it tried to brainwash journalists that the individual who raised the issue, a seasoned journalist himself, is on a personal vendetta. They claimed that simply because they did not honour his request to give him an advert that is the reason why he has therefore decided to pick up a fight against the company. That assertion has proven to be totally incorrect and baseless.
They further tried to pull wool over the eyes of media practitioners that because they have been having issues relating to a packing space that is why he became so infuriated to an extent that he has decided to paint the company in a bad light.
Management also misinformed the journalists that the Publisher and Managing Editor of The Calabash newspaper, Amin Kef Sesay aka Ranger, the one championing the cause for the repairing of the road, is the habit of bragging that journalists who go to the company, for one reason or the other, are his juniors in the profession. That indictment, it was realized, was a botched attempt to trivialize the serious issue as if he is championing the cause for personal aggrandizement, when in actual fact it is vividly apparent that he is doing so in the interest of other residents within the community.
It must be strongly stated that though it is the Sierra Leone Roads Authority (SLRA) that is constitutionally charged with the mandate for the construction or rehabilitation (maintenance) of roads in different parts of the country, however, it is considered best practice, by many, for Management of the company to faciltate the process.
As a matter of fact, the road is not a major one that requires too many resources, in terms of finance, machinery and manpower, to undertake its maintenance from time to time which understandably should not pose a major challenge for the company. At the end of the day the company too stands to benefit in terms of contributing to the good conditions of their very vehicles.
As the situation now stands, most of the affected residents and the media believe that it is high time the Government, Civil Society Organizations and other stakeholders prevail on the Gulf Water Management to undertake proper maintenance of the road in question in order to bring it up to an appreciable standard as soon as possible, otherwise the situation would continue to deteriorate to the discomfort of most of the residents living there.
It must fall within their Corporate Social Responsibility.