Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL), the local chapter of the global coalition against corruption, issues this press release in response to the Annual Report of the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption (Bribery Commission) 2001, pending a fuller public dialogue in due course.While welcoming the release of the Annual Report, TISL recognises certain positive aspects of the Report. The Commission has entered into the field of preventive action such as awareness programmes, training and propaganda on the anti-corruption activities, which is undoubtedly an achievement, though the planned activities had been limited due to the restriction of funds by the Treasury. The Report also reveals that some genuine attempts are being made by the officers of the Commission to address various pertinent issues by resorting to new methodologies. TISL is also happy that the Commission has been able to secure more information on bribery and corruption, qualitatively and quantitatively, compared to previous years, even with limited resources. Another encouraging factor is that it has recognised some of the shortcomings of the Commission.
TISL however sees the Annual Report, in its totality, as being a clear indicator of the failure of the pioneer Sri Lankan anti-corruption institute. As a public institute operated from public finance, the public expects the Commission to reach its goals and mission, but unfortunately TISL does not see such achievements as worthy of commendation. This conclusion is inevitable from the data available in the Annual Report itself. The zero conviction rate and the failure to ensure a high level of accountability and transparency of the Commission, both reflects the weakness of the legal structure, capacity, investigation process and the Commissioners themselves.
The Commission alone cannot be held responsible for this failure. TISL firmly believes that the respective governments have failed to display sufficient commitment to make the Commission effective by ensuring all resources being granted to the Commission. Admittedly the Commission is operating without sufficient staff and other resources. The Commission does not have its own investigating staff except the police officers released from the Department of Police, who are subjected to certain administrative controls by the Inspector General of Police. The Commission depends upon other institutions, from which corrupt officers have been often apprehended. The Commission does not have the capacity, financial or otherwise, to recruit or train officers to deal with bribery and corruption. Lack of financial independence is reflected in the fact that the Treasury can curtail funds already allocated by Parliament, without consulting the Commission. Another matter for serious consideration is the legal structure of the Commission, which requires two retired judges to be appointed as Commissioners without any form of assessment into their integrity, capacity or commitment. The Commissioners appear to believe that “Sharks” cannot be apprehended due to legal constraints but TISL disagrees with this view.
These are issues that urgently warrant serious and careful consideration. TISL agrees with the Commission there should be reforms in the Law particularly in the area of Corruption, Courts, Investigations, Recruitment and Training. However, prior to law reforms, it is necessary to seriously examine the existing weaknesses and identify systemic failures and specific needs. This is undoubtedly the time to commence such a dialogue, paving the foundation for a strong and effective anti-corruption institution. TISL urges the government to show its commitment and genuineness in this regard by responding to the Annual Report as well as to our plea.
TISL seriously requests the government, the Commission, civil society, the media and all institutions concerned (public as well as private sector) to address these issues carefully with a view to making the Commission an effective anti corruption commission with integrity. TISL is certain that the public in Sri Lanka will urge the government, other institutions and concerned individuals to address these issues as a priority because the public confidence of anti-corruption institutions is absolutely necessary for sustainable development in a country free of corruption.