Sri Lanka one of the most corrupt nations in the world

Lakshman Indranath Keerthisinghe | Published on October 23, 2011 at 10:22 am

‘If we believe a thing to be bad, and if we have a right to prevent it, it is our duty to try to prevent it and to damn the consequences’– Alfred, Lord Milner (1854-1929)

This column dedicated to the notion of making Sri Lanka the Wonder of Asia turns its spotlight today on another malpractice: ‘Bribery and Corruption’ that is affecting the aspirations of Sri Lankan society to live in a corruption free society.

Black’s Law Dictionary defines ‘Bribery’ as ‘the offering, giving receiving or soliciting of any item of value to influence the actions of an official or

President Mahinda Rajapakse and younger brother and cabinet Minister Basil Rajapakse. President Rajapakse's son Namal - a government MP worships uncle Basil (Inset). President Rajapakse's other two siblings Gotabaya Rajapakse and Chamal Rajapakse are the Defence Secretary and the Speaker. Various other nephews and relatives adorn other government positions. Together the Rajapakse family control 85 percent of the country's wealth

other person in charge of a public or legal duty’ The UN Declaration against Corruption and Bribery in International Commercial Transactions defines ‘Corruption’ as ‘any offer, promise or giving of any advantage to another person as undue consideration for performing or refraining from the performance of that person’s duty , or the soliciting or accepting of any advantage as undue consideration for performing or refraining from the performance of one’s duty.’

Corruption has been considered as an extension of bribery. Professor.A.D.V.de S.Indraratne President of the Sri Lanka Economists Association speaking of Public Sector Corruption in Sri Lanka at the SLEA Annual Sessions in 2007 stated: ‘Public officials and politicians fight shy of even mentioning it as a cause of our poverty, and even among us economists, only a very few has shown interest in the study of the nexus between corruption and inequity and poverty.” Thus eradication of bribery and corruption from our society coupled with economic development would definitely pave the way to a prosperous Sri Lankan Nation free of poverty and its attendant ill effects on our society. The issue of poverty and abject misery would be the subject of a future discussion in this column. At the outset it must be emphatically stated that without the requisite political will and resolve, bribery and corruption could never be eradicated from our society.

Bribery and corruption is rampant in Sri Lankan society

The White Paper (August 2007) prepared for USAID-SRI LANKA titled ‘Bribery and Corruption in Sri Lanka : Strengthening the Institutional Framework’ states thus: “It is widely acknowledged that bribery and corruption is rampant in Sri Lankan society. The Parliamentary Committee on Public Accounts recently estimated that corruption in the public sector is costing the country approximately Rs.100 billion every year .Yet the institutional mechanisms for dealing with bribery and corruption have failed to have any significant impact on reducing either practice. Some low level officials have been prosecuted over the years but very few of the ‘big fish’ have been brought to task.’

The Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption was established by Act No. 19 of 1994 to provide the establishment of a permanent Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption and to direct the institution of prosecutions for offences under the Bribery Act and the Declaration of Assets and Liabilities Law, No. 1 of 1975.The first Commission commenced its activities from 15th December 1994.The Commission consists of three members, two of whom shall be retired Judges of the Supreme Court or of the Court of Appeal and one of whom shall be a person with wide experience relating to the investigation of crime and law enforcement

The Commission, which is active at the present time, has the power to summon persons to give evidence or produce relevant documents, to require a Bank, Commissioner General of Inland Revenue, other Government department,local authority or State Corporation to produce documents relevant to its investigations to require any person accused of bribery and corruption to furnish an affidavit declaring his assets and liabilities and that of other members of the immediate family and require any person to make sworn statements regarding such person’s assets and liabilities. Section 7 of the Bribery Act as amended defines corruption as including all mala fide activities including nepotism, misconduct, misuse of information, induced omissions or commissions contrary to law etc. Gratification is defined in Section 90 as including anything of monetary value or convertible to monetary value, any office or contract, or any other form of protection. There are many drawbacks encountered by the Commission in the execution of its functions such as the dependence on the I.G.P to provide investigating officers and the Ministry of Public Administration for administrative officers. The Director General of the Commission is appointed by the President and answerable to him.

Sri Lanka is rated as one of the most corrupt nations in the world

The other statutes used to combat bribery and corruption include the Declaration of Assets and Liabilities Acts No.1 of 1975, No 29 of 1985 and amending Act No.74 of 1988., which monitors the acquisition of wealth by public officers and politicians, Prevention of Money Laundering Act No.5 of 2006 and the Financial Transactions Reporting Act No.6 of 2006.The office of the Ombudsman and the Constitutional Council established by the 17th Amendment to the Constitution which was mandated to recommend the members to be appointed to the Elections Commission, Public Service Commission, National Police Commission ,Human Rights Commission Bribery Commission, Finance Commission and Delimitation Commission tends to depoliticize such appointments which is beneficial to the elimination or reduction of bribery and corruption.

Sri Lanka is rated as one of the most corrupt nations in the world in spite of the many statutes promulgated to eliminate such corruption. In 2004 the VAT (Value Added Tax) scam uncovered by the Auditor General’s Department resulted in the loss of Rupees 441 billion to the Inland Revenue Department. Fraudsters obtained vat refunds by producing falsified documents with the assistance of corrupt public officials some of whom are imprisoned. By the registration of cars as trucks with the assistance of corrupt officials the Motor Traffic Department incurred heavy losses as indicated in its 2006 report. The Report of the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) exposed many other corrupt practices that have taken place in public enterprises, resulting in heavy losses .in revenue. The failure to take action by the Monetary Board of the Central Bank against many bogus finance companies affected the economic stability of the country. The COPE found fault with the Board of Investment, Aviation Services Ltd., Sri Lanka Ports Authority Samurdhi Authority, Ceylon Electricity Board and the Bank of Ceylon among other enterprises for engaging in corrupt practices. and /or mismanagement. Sri Lankan society is well aware of the bribery and corruption rampant in the Police, with first hand knowledge. It is unfortunate that the Department is brought into disrepute due to a minority of officers engaging in corrupt practices. The new I.G.P being a public spirited officer would no doubt take the necessary measures to reduce this malpractice as it appears that total eradication though preferable, is an impossibility.

Let me conclude in lighter vein recounting an episode that concerns a retired Sri Lankan government servant delegated to hell probably due to bribery and corruption.

A man dies and goes to hell. There he finds that there is a different hell for each country. He goes to the German hell and asks, “What do they do here?” He is told, “First they put you in an electric chair for an hour. Then they lay you on a bed of nails for another hour. Then the German devil comes in and beats you for the rest of the day.” The man does not like the sound of that at all, so he moves on. He checks out the USA hell as well as the Russian hell and many more. He discovers that they are all more or less the same as the German hell. Then he comes to the Sri Lankan hell and finds that there is a long line of people waiting to get in. Amazed, he asks, “What do they do here?” He is told, “First they put you in an electric chair for an hour. Then they lay you on a bed of nails for another hour. Then the Sri Lankan devil comes in and beats you for the rest of the day.” “But that is exactly the same as all the other hells – why are there so many people waiting to get in?” “Because maintenance is so bad that the electric chair does not work, someone has stolen all the nails from the bed ,and the devil is a former Government servant, so he comes in, signs the register and then goes to the canteen!!!!! !

The moral of the story is that one has to be in hell to appreciate the value of the Sri Lankan way of doing things.

lakshman@lankastandard.com

 


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President Mahinda Rajapakse and younger brother and cabinet Minister Basil Rajapakse. President Rajapakse's son Namal - a government MP worships uncle Basil (Inset). President Rajapakse's other two siblings Gotabaya Rajapakse and Chamal Rajapakse are the Defence Secretary and the Speaker. Various other nephews and relatives  adorn other government positions. Together the Rajapakse family control 85 percent of the country's wealth

Sri Lanka one of the most corrupt nations in the world

‘If we believe a thing to be bad, and if we have a right to prevent it, it is our duty to try to prevent ...