By Sarath Wijesinghe –
Bribery and Corruption
It is all over in the society. it is cancerous rampant and all over as air and breath. It is worldwide and taking place every minute all over the world- in style in the West and developed nations and more openly in crude form in the developing world. it is a way of life and considers a part of life in the most inefficient system of administrations immersed in bribery and corruption. It is difficult to eradicate completely but our efforts should be to minimize it. One of the root causes of bribery and corruption is the inefficiency of the governance. Religions have failed to clamp it. Will rigorous punishments be able to sweep away this menace is a moot issue. It may be the greed of the man with unlimited satisfaction with uncontrolled mindset and lust. It is informed that the person who took the highest bribe recently was awarded a sum much more than the massive bribe taken indicating the unlimited lust and greed of this individual. Bribery may be small big direct or indirect. There is news on sex bribes demanded on school admissions. Mothers resort to this to get her child admitted which is difficult and complicated under normal circumstances. In the West bribe is indirectly legitimized by way of commissions to ‘Companies’ which in the process trickles down the line to Sri Lanka as well. It has become so rooted that nothing appears to be happening and no file is moving without a bribe in some form or at least influence from politicians which is also indirect bribe. We must find a way to get out of it and get over at any cost, what is the way out is a million-dollar question.
Oxford defines it as fraudulent conduct by those in power typically involving bribery ‘and’ the action or effect of making someone or something morally deprived. Corruption evades trust in governments business and markets. sometimes it is considered customary and accepted. Bribery is giving or receiving something and influencing a transection. Corruption involves more than two or more people enters into a secret agreement to pay an inducement to an official for official for securing for a favor of some deception in return. Bribery is an offence punishable under penal code as far back as 1882. In 1994 act no 19 was created to combat Bribery and Corruption. Lot discussed on eradication of corruption and bribery but less has been done for implementation process of eradication. Definitions are found in the bribery act 11 of 1954 incorporated the amendments up to 2012 and in the Website of the Commission. The Preamble of the act states that it is an establishment to investigate allegations of bribery or corruption and to direct the institution of precautions for offences under the bribery act and the declaration of asserts and liabilities law, no 1 of 1975 and the matters connected or incidental.
Simply look round in government departments in day to day life. Police, Court Administration, Customs, Port, Motor Traffic, Immigration, Department of NIC, and alike are the most corrupt among the corrupt institutions in the lead unharmed with the blessings and the participation of the polite and powerful. Court system is the guardian of the Nation offering justice and fair play to the citizen. From the Magistrate court administration to the highest court corruption is rampant seen felt and experienced by the 10% of the population who are litigants. Court peon is the most powerful who can do wonders in the court system, Immigration Department of National Identity and similar institutions dealing with the public in any other state or corporation outlet. These are not myths or mere accusations as it is happening everywhere every minute. A person known to us went to motor traffic department in Werahara and CTB in Maharagama to get a job done. Officers were very courteous efficient and did the job in minutes and offered to pay the amounts due to the cashier as a part of help, to find and the balance was given after deducting the bribe. Citizen was speechless but kept quiet as the job was done and did not want further complications. He noticed an officer openly demanding 10,000 rupees to do the job from a foreigner as a soft target and a n easy prey. If someone in the bribery commission visit any government institution ‘now’ he/she can come across number of detections within a short period. This simple comment indicates the gravity of the challenges before the government pledged for Good Governance. There was an instance where Court Register has taken the production in the court premises in his charge takin the whole lot in a vehicle in the broad day light. Though he was convicted this given the message how difficult it is to control this menace. Money speaks in the Court system Prisons and police stations.
Weak Governance responsible for Bribery and Corruption?
Following quotation links bribery and corruption to weak governance and inefficiency. At the rate the Bribery and corruption takes place in the broad day light as street robbery one wonders whether is governance at all if not for goof governance.
Quotation – but when you have bad governance…the resources are destroyed- there is illegal logging, there is soil erosion. I got pulled deeper and deeper and saw how there’s issues became linked to governance, corruption and dictatorship. – ‘Wangars Mathis- Kenyan Activist’
This indicated that Bribery and Corruption is linked to Good and Bad Governance as those who are in governance are the people responsible for Bribes as well as eradication, which takes the issue to political levels of any polite. This is a matter which is to be considered out of politics as currently it is a media circus accused by bribe takers in the governance to the opposing bribe takes out of power both of whom are equally corrupt.
Bribery Commission should be credited for the good start by updating the Website and being frank on the difficulties and challenges. Citizens participation and is paramount in this massive exercise which should be a joint operation of the Governance, Polite, Commission and the Citizen with the participation of the professionals and the general public.
Much is written on bribery but much less is on minimizing, prevention and eradication. Therefore, it is time for a dialog on Minimizing, Prevention and eradication of briary and corruption in all levels of the society for a collation based on the experiences of the common man.
Largest ever detection
Largest ever bribery detection was caught recently while three senior customs officers were acceptation 125 million rupees to release a spare part consignment. Media has given a detailed narration of the excellent job done by the Director General who should be credited for the hard work strategy leading the group to successful detection. This is largest ever detection and may not the largest ever as there is possibility for many larger incidents taking place in the system open to use and misuse with no checks and balances. For example, it is difficult to ascertain how one or few in power to taking decisions for millions or billions without wetting a checks and balances. We are not aware of the procedures which we are entitled to know. The promised right to know legislation has still not seen the daylight. This is a simple straight forward transection that has taken place quick in the broad day light. It is a brought day light robbery of the tax payer’s money. How many have and are going unnoticed and undetected are known to few. Though wide publicity was given there is a dead silence on the issue compelling us to think of the famous ‘famous Vat Scam’ where some were convicted for minor offences and the main sharks are living in safe havens of money laundering in Dubai and many other countries enjoying the retirement with Sheiks immersed in money.
According to Transparency International biggest increase on corruption was from North American and European Union with 6/10 representing corruption levels. It is high in third world and poor Asian African countries linked to foreign aid and developed and EU nations linked to arms deals and internal conflicts encouraged by the west for arms sales.
Indictment is mainly aimed at the line Minister concerned who is free to act having relived of many difficult areas of the Ministry. It is time he makes a public statement on the custom scam/incident without disturbing the inquiries and to lay down a future plan to prevent s further robberies. Is it the tip of the ice bag or the last major detection will be decided by the steps taken by the line Minister in tis major scandal that has taken place unnoticed? This is from a tip off from an aggrieved party and entire credit need not go to the governance or the institutions concerned and responsible for.
Corruption committee is to combat and eradicate consist of The Prime Minister, Ministers and members of the opposition. It is more appropriate to appoint retired Supreme Court Judges and respected social activists for the committee without any politicians as the finger on bribery is pointed at all politicians who look after themselves on car permits, perks, increment of salaries and spending over 4.6 million of public funds a day for discussions expected of highest standards. Standard and the effect of the discussions are judged by the ordinary man who is superior to the polite enjoying power.
It is a fact that many state institutions are corrupt whatever the government is in power as Bribery and corruption is institutionalized. Customs Department where the largest bribery amount was detected is famous for bribery and corruption and it is doubtful the checks and balances available with an effective system to minimize or eradicate it.
Way forward and the current structure
Is the current structure effective and if not so what are the changes suggested to improve the campaign fighting the menace of Briary and Corruption? Definitely the current system is not effective and needs long and short term strategies. Political intervention and excessive media circus are to be avoided. Modern IT developments should be made use of for the citizen participation when almost every citizen is in possession of a mobile with commuter centers even in villages. Witness protection and inducements offered to be streamlined and modernized. Asserts and liabilities declaration to be extended to all government servants irrespective of the grade and self-funded provincial offices are to be set up to decentralize the system. Officers should be given incentives and a proper training to be courteous and not to misuse power as has been done During the previous Bribery Commissioner Ian Wickramanayake who mainly went after small fish overlooking Sharks. Impressment and fine should be increased and incentives are to be offered to citizens and the honest government offices on detections. Government servants are privileged with lot of perks and future stability with pension and similar benefits over other employees. They should be educated on simple life devoid of extravagance and to live within means. No lenience should be shown and the maximum imperative punishments are to be given with no mercy for Bribe takers and those responsible for corruption including inefficiently and slow in action in the government service. Citizens, the Social Networks, NGO’s, Civil Society Organizations Media and the Polity will have to bear the major burden in the implementation of the National Programmed launched by the Governance and the Opposition groups together.