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Sri Lanka Is A Corrupt Nation

2013 Jul 10

By Easwaran Rutnam

Public sector corruption is still high in Sri Lanka, and by the looks of it we have a long way to go to clear our name.

According to Transparency International, Sri Lanka is ranked 79 from among 174 countries in the corruption index for last year as compared to 86 the previous year.

The least corrupt nation is at number one while the worst is at number 174 and based on that Sri Lanka is on the margin between the good and bad.

Sri Lanka is only one rank better than China, who just so happens to be Sri Lanka’s biggest development assistance partner.

What the government cannot be proud of however is that countries like Tunisia and Rwanda are better than Sri Lanka when it comes to corruption in the public sector.

The police are among the corrupt public sector workers in Sri Lanka as they accept bribes when carrying out investigations or are on traffic duty.

Even the State owned Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) is corrupt and this, in part, caused the increase in electricity tariffs recently.

Giving evidence before a Transparency International people’s tribunal last Thursday on whether electricity bills were justified, the People’s Movement Against Increasing Electricity Tariffs representative Saman Rathnapriya said the CEB losses, corruption and wastage were the reason for the recent exponential tariff increase.

Rathnapriya said he had documents that he would place before the tribunal, which indicated that the Sampur power plant currently under construction would be an inefficient one that would place further burdens on the electricity consumers once the plant was commissioned.

Rathnapriya charged that the Power Minister at the time John Seneviratne had not been aware of the Sampur Agreement and that Sri Lanka had entered into the agreement with an Indian company without the approval of the CEB board of directors. He said that while the agreement claimed the Sampur plant would run at 40% efficiency the actual efficiency of the plant was 35% resulting in losses of between 2.6 and 4.9 billion rupees.

One of the most notable cases in public sector corruption came to light when the North Central Province Road Development Authority (NCP RDA) interdicted two of its highest ranking officers and started investigating allegations of massive corruption prior to the Deyata Kirula exhibition in 2012.

The Transparency International Sri Lanka led Coalition Against Corruption (CAC) had revealed that over 3,000 million rupees had been swindled during the construction and development of roads by the NCP RDA prior to the exhibition.

The Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption (CIABOC) had launched an investigation following a written complaint by the NCP RDA officials along with the provincial administration.

NCP RDA also suspended payment of Rs 14, 000 million to the contractors who were allegedly authorized to repair the roads affected by floods during year 2011.

These acts of fraud had taken place when roads were extended to cover about 410km. More than 30 roads were developed before the Deyata Kirula exhibition. An allocation of Rs 7,500 million had been made for the development of roads during the period 2008 – 2012. It included Rs 2,500 million from the North Central Province Fund, Rs 1,500 million from JICA and Rs 3,500 million from the Asian Development Bank.

Inspector General of Police, N. K. Ilangakoon had also directed the police to conduct an investigation into this massive corruption after officials of the NCP RDA made the complaint.

In order to eliminate corruption in the public sector, Transparency International says the CIABOC needs to be given greater independence and empowerment, and have adequate human and infrastructure resources.

It also said that there are areas of essential legal reforms in enhancing the operational efficiency and effectiveness of Anti-Bribery and Corruption based law enforcements.

Right to information, whistle blower protection and witness protection are some of the key areas Transparency International feels need to be in place as a step to fight corruption.

Transparency International says all stakeholders must have access to information from State agencies on time and in required detail. Sri Lanka still lacks a robust Right to Information law. Its enactment will be a great inducement to our common vision.

Transparency International also says corruption is a main factor that prevents investment. A safe equal playing field for investment requires the absence of corruption. Elimination of corruption is possible through effective anti-corruption measures. A primary need is to have an effective whistle blower protection system.

It also says an equally important aspect of a conducive environment is effective witness protection. In the absence of whistle blower and witness protection, eliminating corruption will not be possible.

    A Few Detections By CIABOC This Year

    A Police Constable attached to the Uppuweli Police Station was taken into custody by the Investigation Officers of the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption on 13 March 2013  for soliciting and accepting Rs 3000 in order to grant relief on a complaint lodged by the complainant regarding a dispute over money.

    The Field Assistant who acted for the posts of Land Officer and Unit Manager, Nochchiyagama divisional office was taken into custody by the Investigation Officers of the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption on 01 March 2013  for soliciting and accepting Rs 50,000 in order to prepare a deed in the name of the complainant for the paddy land the complainant is in possession of.

    A police constable attached to the Community Services Division, Head Quarters Branch, Bandarawela has solicited Rs 2500 in order to refrain from instituting legal action on an allegation of breeding dengue mosquitoes in the residential premises of the complainant. The suspect had accepted Rs 1000 out of it earlier and on 1 February 2013 he was taken into custody by the Investigation Officers of the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption for accepting the balance Rs 1500.

    On 31 January 2013, the Divisional Secretary – Badal Kumbura was taken into custody by the Investigation Officers of the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption for soliciting a sexual favour from the complainant in order to grant a state land to the complainant.

    On 22 January 2013 a Wild Life Guard attached to Area Forest Officer Baduluwela and a Civil Security Guard were taken into custody by the Investigating Officers of the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption for soliciting and accepting Rs 15,000 from the complainant in order to refrain from taking legal action against the complainant for cutting down two teak trees.

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