A Transparency International report from London put Sri Lanka in the high risk category for corruption in the defence and security sector. Sri Lanka’s GI Ranking in Band E places it in the very high risk category for corruption in the defence and security sector.
The country scored Band E across four risk areas: Political, Finance, Operations and Procurement. Operations scored slightly higher in Band D. While newly elected President Maithipala Sririsena has overseen a series of anti-corruption reforms since his ascension to power in January 2015, it is unclear how these will remedy corruption vulnerabilities stemming from an absence of legislative scrutiny of defence issues, allegations of nepotism in the appointment of key military personnel, and a lack of formal regulations for defence procurement.
Transparency International has suggested the following reforms of the security sector to minimize corruption risk.
ENHANCE LEGISLATIVE SCRUTINY
Under the previous administration, President Mahinda Rajapaksa oversaw the entire Defence Sector and faced little to no effective oversight and scrutiny by the legislature. After assuming power in January 2015, President Maithipala Sirisena’s government passed the 19th amendment to the constitution. In addition to replacing Sri Lanka’s executive presidential system with a more balanced parliamentary system, the amendment has sought to establish an independent National Audit Commission that will report directly to Parliament.
To build upon Rajapaksa’s reforms, TI recommended that the government establish a parliamentary committee tasked specifically with the oversight of defence and security activities, strategy and spending. This committee should have access to a fully detailed defence budget and internal audit reports, be able to call expert witnesses, scrutinise defence agencies and institutions; meet regularly and publish reports on its activity.
INCREASE BUDGET TRANSPARENCY
The Ministry of Public Finance publishes a budget for security sector finances. However, few details aside from total revenue and total expenses are included. To increase transparency and civilian oversight TI has recommended that the government publish an annual defence budget that includes detailed information on expenditure across functions including research & design, training, salaries, acquisitions, disposal of assets, maintenance and personnel expenditures to help ensure that the budget is spent on equipment that meet Sri Lanka’s strategic priorities and needs.
ESTABLISH CLEAR PROTOCOLS FOR PROMOTIONS
Evidence suggests that political interference, nepotism and lack of objective criteria for appointments and promotions have been a consistent issue in military appointments. President Rajapaksa chose his brother Gotabaya Rajapaksa to be the Defence Secretary and his other brother Basil Rajapaksa to head the Finance Ministry.
TI recommended that formal written procedures establishing an independent, transparent, and objective appointment system for the selection and promotion of military personnel at all levels be established. This system should be published, and accompanied by the use of objective job descriptions, assessment processes for appointments, and independent oversight.