27 June, 2022


Empower The Proposed Commission On Corruption

By R.M.B Senanayake

R.M.B Senanayake

R.M.B Senanayake

Empower The Proposed Commission On Corruption And Enlarge Its Scope And Mandate

The Government has rightly decided to appoint a Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the many allegations being made against the former regime- the President and his family as well as the Ministers. There are allegations of massive amounts of public money being used for the personal benefit of the ruler and his family. There are allegations of giving contracts on unsolicited offers, of violations of tender procedures, of paying out massive sums on contracts unrelated to their costs, of favoring cronies and enjoying commissions and receiving kickbacks from contractors etc. All these are unacceptable forms of corruption but where is the law that makes them crimes? The UN Convention on Corruption specified several of these financial malpractices to be criminalized. But past governments did nothing about such recommendation. There is no legal accountability of the President and the Ministers for such acts of corruption since the Financial Regulations are issued by the Treasury and Ministers have considered that they were not bound to follow them. No MP or Minister has ever taken responsibility for the financial misdemeanors in their Ministry and Departments and resigned from their seats, not even on the reports of the COPE or COPA.

rajapaksa-family-colombo-telegraph1The World Bank drafted a law called the Public Finance Act 2002 which fixed financial accountability on the Minister of Finance for the financial management and accountability of the State Corporations and government owned undertakings. The law was not passed. It fixed financial accountability on the Minister of Finance who is the President himself. It envisaged the issue of Regulations under the Act and the Ministers could have been made accountable for failure to follow the Financial Regulations. They could then be surcharged and where there was clear dishonesty they could be sent to jail.

If the Government is serious about tackling corruption and conflict of interest it must bring in the necessary legislation recommended by the UN and make it retrospective if possible. I am not aware if Sri Lanka has signed up to the Convention. If not it should do so now. It would help to recover ill gotten gains stashed abroad for there is a procedure for such recovery to be followed. The Government should seek assistance from the UN for technical assistance to implement its anti-corruption drive.

Meanwhile the Government should call for representations from the public about corruption which they are aware of and rewards should be offered to the informants if the information is found to be true. Where there is sufficient evidence of theft, embezzlement etc which are offenses under the law the Police could be directed to file criminal cases against them. A special investigation may be required to probe the frauds alleged by Minister Champika Ranawaka in the CEB and possibly in the CPC as well.

The Commission should be empowered to surcharge the officials responsible if not the Ministers or the President. Officials should not have complied with violations of the Financial Regulations. Unethical links to special contractors who were favored should also be probed. Wherever possible there should be criminal charges against the officials and the power given to the Commission to recover ill-gotten gains. Of course those against whom the allegations are made should be allowed to be present and cross-examine those who give evidence before the Commission. Most of those who indulged in such acts of corruption never considered that they were malpractices and certainly not as crimes. But that is no excuse for them not to be punished and the losses recovered from their personal wealth and failure to repay should lead to a jail sentence. The legal aspect of providing such powers to a Commission may have to be examined. The least is to recover the losses through surcharges.

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Latest comments

  • 1

    Excellent move to have a separate commission.

    It is important that these committees and commissions are properly constituted.

    You need to have professionals with different skills to serve in a committee such as this. For example the Bribery Commissin has retired judges and retired IGPs. They have no clue as to how white collar crime is committed. You need to have bankers, lawyers, accountants, auditors, IT experts, procurement experts etc to be involved.

    Hope the authorities realize the importance of obtaining the skills of different professionals.

    • 0

      Commissions of inquiry should serve two purposes. That is to find and punish the guilty and clear the names of the not guilty.

      For example there were many allegations of corruption against the former President CBK. It is nothing but fair that the mandate of the proposed Commission cover the period of her regime and clear her good name of these horrible allegations.

      It was such a slur on her good name to be called the Chaura Rajina. High time that her name is cleared so that she could be called the Queen of Integrity.

  • 3

    The answer revolves round the question ” Is the government serious” Are they merely talking. Commissions had been set up the past for everything and then hardly reports are seen or action taken. I find commissions an escape route for those who do not want to take action. I hope the commission set by MS will not suffer the same fate.
    I do not know how many in power read these articles and the comments in CT. Mr. Senanayake it will be worth you while to contact the President and the Prime Minister and state our concerns. If the commissions are inactive or action is not taken, this government will only last 100days. We are watching and we for the first time in history feel that we are stake holders in this government.

    There must be an establishment code and FR governing financial transactions, so can action be taken. I know action against the government servants were taken for a mere few rupees. Till we enact new laws can we do something within the existing framework. Has the transport board and rupavahini taken action to recover the balance money due to them for their services during elections. Has they paid the telephone bill.
    Can we take action for hiding deserting navy officials. Have they found who owned lamboginis. Sujiwa Serasinghe had supposed to have taken photos of transporting these cars by plane. It appeared in the internet. If these photos are genuine, we can surely find the owners and the destinations. Readers in this column may know Mr. Serasinghe, so please contact him. Cars are not “kos Ata” to hide.

    Can we take action under FR against the Sec Defence for transferring money to another account. Then we saw a news item, billions were withdrawn from Divineguma account before the elections. Cheque nos were too given. Who took this money and where is this.

    Number of courts were not enough. Government can set up courts to ease the burden on the existing courts. I am not advocating kangaroo courts but normal courts set up to hear cases. We need more courts.

    Last but not least it must be stated there is NO POLITICAL WILL to punish the culprits. It is not taking revenge but we need justice. We need to clean up the state. Is CHampika and AKD shouting sincerely or for public consumption.

    (On a different note, I would also like to tell you all that I had case which lasted 16 years. Believe me there was no unfair postponement of this cases. Lawyers on both sides never asked for a postponement. If this case was heard continuously this would have finished in 2 weeks. We need to increase the number of courts if not even for this case)

    • 0

      I don’t understand:
      ”there was no unfair postponement…..If this case was heard continuously this would have finished in 2 weeks”

      • 0

        The last para in brackets is a case that i was personally involved. What I mean is that my case was not postponed by lawyers asking for a date, In fairness to my lawyer and the defendant’s lawyer, they never asked for a postponement. District Judge who heard the case was particular that the lawyers do not abuse their power. I heard him reprimanding other lawyers when they asked for a postponement on flimsy grounds.
        What really happened was that the judge had to accommodate all the cases fixed for that date, He only heard our case for 1/2 an hour to one hour. As I mentioned if the judge heard the case continuously courts would have taken 2 weeks.
        Thank you Mr. Senanayaka for replying. I am interested in the issue of corruption and bad governance, What do we do ? will time permit them to escape. Do these commissions have teeth to act. For me these matters are serious

  • 0

    I sympathize with Maali Karunaratne’s grievance about the log delay in hearing her case. The Court delays are a serious problem and it requires urgent attention. I suggest that the Judges should take control of the court proceedings without allowing the lawyers to run the show. When Felix Dias want the Minister he asked a few of us senior administrators to examine the Registry offices of the Courts? What a mess they were. The Judges never bothered to check what was happening in their registry offices. The Chief Clerk or the Registrar ran the show and the lawyers walk in and out fishing out the files they were interested in. I suggest that all lower court Judges be given a quota of cases they must complete for the month and those who fail should be terminated. Whenever dates are given on the request of the lawyers costs should be awarded to the other side. Recently I went for a Company case and the defendant had not turned up. Our lawyer was not willing to ask for costs but I insisted and he had to agree. During colonial times I was told that a senior judge from Colombo visited outstation courts to see how the court was being conducted. Only 4% of criminal cases are convictions. So how can the law be a deterrent to crime. As for civil cases I understand that that the parties have to pay for the costs of the court as well- although I cant vouch for it. A modern society needs well functioning institutions and these include the courts.

    • 0

      Mr Senanayake
      Thanks for the comment and the article too

  • 3

    Hey guys, read below, Law and order should bee the way it has been in South korea.


    Korean Air executive jailed in ‘nut rage’ case
    Jump media playerMedia player helpOut of media player. Press enter to return or tab to continue.
    Steve Evans reports: “A year in prison and a mountain of humble pie”
    A former executive of South Korea’s national airline has been jailed for one year for obstructing aviation safety during a row over nuts.

    Heather Cho forced a plane to return to the gate in New York last December and offload a steward because she did not like the way she had been served nuts.

    Judge Oh Sung-woo said it was a case where “human dignity” had been “trampled upon”.

    Ms Cho has apologised and quit Korean Air, which is run by her father.

    Her plane was taxiing at New York’s JFK Airport on 5 December when witnesses say she became angry after being served macadamia nuts she did not ask for, and which were still in a bag and not in a bowl.

    Korean Air Lines Chairman Cho Yang-ho arrives to testify at the second court hearing of his daughter Cho Hyun-ah, also known as Heather Cho, at the Seoul Western District court in Seoul January 30, 2015.
    Cho’s father, Korean Air boss Cho Yang-ho, scolded her over the incident
    She ordered the plane to return to the gate and offload the chief steward.

    Judge Oh said Cho had treated the flight “as if it was her own private plane”.

    “It is doubtful that the way the nuts were served was so wrong,” he said.

    The judge said Cho, who is also known as Cho Hyun-ah, had failed to show enough remorse even after she submitted letters to the court apologising for the incident.

    At the scene: Stephen Evans, BBC News, Seoul
    The case has resonated within South Korea because of a continuing debate over the way the family-owned and run conglomerates – chaebol – operate.

    Some critics say that the way family members are favoured is unfair and mitigates against good business. They say the nut rage case epitomises that.

    In court, Cho wept as she read a letter of contrition, a contrition the judge said he didn’t accept was genuine.

    Apart from the serious debate, it is fair to say that many people may relish the way someone with privilege behaved so badly – and was then penalised for it.

    The humiliation may be as heavy a penalty for Cho as the prison sentence.

    Prosecutors had asked for a sentence of three years in prison on charges of breaking aviation law, assault and interfering in an investigation.

    Witnesses testified during the trial that Cho struck a crew member with the service manual.

    Chaebol domination
    Her defence team argued that aviation safety had not been violated as the plane was still being pushed away from the gate.

    However, the judge rejected that argument saying the plane was classed as “in flight” and she interfered.

    Cho, who is the daughter of the chairman of Korean Air, publicly apologised for the incident and resigned from all her posts at the airline in December.

    The trial has opened a national debate about the Korean business system, which is dominated by family firms known as chaebols.

    Some of the families running these businesses have been accused of high-handedness and acting with impunity.

  • 2

    The question is whether the govt. is serious and whether they were able to find suitable and skilled people to manage the commissions,
    inquiries and probes. The delay in bringing the culprits, who robbed
    the treasury, to book, shows the amount of interest, the govt. has
    taken.we know it takes time but the govt. has not given a statement
    so far on the progress they have made so far. MR govt. was thrown out on the corruption issue alone and why cannot the govt. give priority to this issue and prove to the people that past regime did rob the people’s money and retain the voters who voted for them to power. In the absence of credible evidence, the people have become suspicious.

  • 0

    “A modern society needs well functioning institutions and these include the courts. “

    It is upto the new Minister of Justice to bring about new Standards in the functioning of Sri Lanka Courts, with innovative ideas. This must
    be directed to cut down the back-log of cases to within reasonable limits.

    Over to you Mr. Rajapaksa – who is versatile in these matters.

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