19 November, 2017

RTI Commission Gets Separate Budget For 2018 But No Cash For Now !

A separate budget line item for the Right to Information (RTI) Commission of Sri Lanka has been listed under the budget line items for all independent Commissions in the 2018 Budget, sources in Parliament informed the Colombo Telegraph.

Mangala Samaraweera, Minister of Finance and Media

However for the past several months, the Commission has had little money to operate and from October, even the Commission’s staff has not been paid their allowances, as reported in the Lankadeepa yesterday.

The RTI Act specifies that the independent RTI Commission should have an independent budget with moneys voted in from Parliament. However due to the Government not putting aside a separate budget line item for the RTI Commission for 2017, moneys were passed temporarily from the Presidential Secretariat for the first six months. From August this year, the official conduit of sending the funds until the Commission got its own budget, became the Media Ministry. It is at this point that the funding situation passed from bad to worse, Colombo Telegraph understands, due to resistance by some officials. The Media Ministy is the nodal agency for RTI under the Act but its implementation of the Act among Government bodies has been severely criticized by activists who say that only training programmes are being done.                

The financial crisis has been so severe that Commission members have contributed their personal funds towards the daily expenses of the running of the Commission, the Lankadeepa reports. Though the Commission had asked for Rs 75 million for its operationalizing during 2017 and the former Director General of the Information Department Ranga Kalansooriya claimed that the funds had been released, the Colombo Telegraph learns from parliamentary sources that not even 10% of that amount has been able to be utilized by the Commission due to obstacles placed by a few officials.   

Colombo Telegraph spoke to sources within the Media Ministry to check if the holdup in funds was due to ordinary bureaucracy or if officials were trying to cripple the independently functioning RTI Commission by starving it of resources. A senior administrator who intervened to prevent the situation going any further said “Officials should understand how an independent Commission is supposed to work. You cannot stop these developments by uncivilized (‘nugath”) tactics.’   

Appeals coming to the Commission have trebled during the past three months according to the Commission’s website. Despite severe cash constraints, the Commission has been handling hundreds of appeals and released information where Government bodies have declined or delayed to do so. Among these are the Mahanama Tillekeratne report on the 2011 attack by the police on the Katunayake Free Trade Zone workers resulting in hundreds of workers being injured and one killed, released by the Presidential Secretariat after the mother of Roshen Chanaka who had been killed appealed to the Commission.  Across the Southern and Western provinces, parents have successfully appealed to the RTI Commission to release information in regard to the admission of school children to Grade One in the background of various financial irregularities being alleged and political pressure being brought to bear on school principals Information on development projects have been released as in the recent Maruthankerny desalination project in the North.

Meanwhile matters covered in secrecy for decades are being exposed with on example being the disclosure by the Presidential Secretariat to the Commission during an appeal hearing last month that the Commission of Inquiry report into the sudden death of former Sri Lanka Muslim Congress leader, MHM Ashraff is missing in the file maintained on the case and sent to the National Archives by the Presidential Secretariat during former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s period. It is unclear if the file went missing during the time of former President Chandrika Kumaratunga who commissioned the Report or during Rajapaksa’s time.       

The year-long financial crisis of the RTI Commission in 2017 is despite Government Ministers boasting at hearings before the United nations and elsewhere that Sri Lanka has the best RTI law in the region and an independent Commission with eminent members from the legal, public administration and social science fields.    

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Latest comments

  • 3
    0

    Do a hat collection from the people directly. Amarasiri will contribute Rs1,000. Ask each citizen to give Rs.10 each, to know the truth.
    .

    • 1
      0

      Good idea! Lets see how people talk the walk!

      • 3
        0

        Anyone can “talk the walk” that’s what most Sri Lankans do. What’s difficult is to “walk the talk”.

        :))

        • 1
          0

          Oh yes! My blunder~

    • 1
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      Amare is trying to be another Udaya Gammanpila by suggesting a hat collection. Gammanpila use this trick to convert his black money he robbed from Brian Sheddrick. I wonder weather Amare also has black money to convert. Gammanpila is now known as ‘Rupiyal 100 Higanna’ So Amare you don’t have to fall in to that category.
      I have another good Idea. remember when Karu Jayasuriya presented RTI bill to the parliament? RTI bill was defeated by majority in the parliament. When questioned about this from Mahinda Rajapaksha he answered laughing ‘why do you want Information? you ask me I will give information whatever you need’ So, Amare I am suggesting for the time being we all go to Mahinda Rajapaksha for Information, specially forced disappearances, killings, Human right violations until Mangala provide Money to run the RTI office

      • 2
        0

        Lapatiya,

        Amare is NOT simply point out the HYPOCRISY of the current parliamentarians to approve a Bill and NOT fund it. It has the same effect as not approving the bill.

        Amare is prepared to put R,s. 1,000 of his OWN HARD EARNED MONEY, and the people to put Rs.10 each to show the hypocrisy of the crooks. Now, the people will ask, why do you want Rs.10 from me? The answer, unless people will give Rs. 10, they will not tell the truth, even though there is no guarantee that the crooks will tell.

        Udaya Gamanpola, and his fellow crooks are all crooks, and all the finds they have is stole, wither from the public at large, or from individuals. These crooks have no shame.

        Going to Mahinda Rajapaksa will need bags full of money, and still there is no guarantee. By funding the RTI office by voluntary contributions from the people, may expose the crooks, but in the end the crooks may steal these finds as well.

        Welcome to the Land of Native Veddah Aethho, illegally occupied by the Paras and the crooks.

        • 0
          1

          Amare, go back to School.

          • 1
            0

            Lapatiya, youngster, you need money to bribe the politicians and the school principal, just the same way as the crooks. Will finding the RTI Office stop that? Will they disclose those transactions?

      • 2
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        Lapatiya,

        All of Amares’s money is had earned money, NOT Stolen money like Udaya Gammanpila, aka MaRa Crook and cronies, who all have. We are trying to use good money to chase after stolen money and get some recovered. There is certainly a danger the rooks will steal these collected funds as well, from the RTI Office.

  • 4
    0

    Damn this stupid Government!

    • 0
      1

      I do not think it is fair to blame the Government for this! This is the work of a few (possibly corrupt) officials at the Media Ministry. Their sins should not be heaped on ‘the Government.’

      But the Minister must take responsibility for the actions of his officials. That is only fair. After the ‘Mangala’ Budget is over, please get down to actual work on your other portfolio of the ‘Media’, Mr Minister instead of wasting your time issuing letters scolding Mahinda Rajapaksa.

      This mix of Finance and Media is not good. They are two highly active Ministries and cannot be handled by one person.

  • 2
    0

    Right to Information Act, No. 12 of 2016

    16. (1) The Commission shall have its own Fund into
    which shall be credited-
    Fund of the
    Commission.
    (a) all such sums of money as may be voted upon
    from time to time by Parliament for the use of
    the Commission; and
    (b) donations, gifts or grants from any source
    whatsoever, whether in or outside Sri Lanka.

    What is the bank account number for donations, gifts and grants?

  • 2
    0

    “The year-long financial crisis of the RTI Commission in 2017 is despite Government Ministers boasting at hearings before the United nations and elsewhere that Sri Lanka has the best RTI law in the region and an independent Commission with eminent members from the legal, public administration and social science fields.”

    The RTI Act is good and so are the Commissioners and staff. Not providing funds is one way to stop implementation of the RTI Act.

  • 2
    0

    Here is example of “Eating the cake and keeping it”
    RTI is there but not there!

  • 0
    0

    Collect one rupee from each litre of petrol/diesel sold and credit it to RTI. Ensure that it goes into the account. Possibilities are there to” get lost on the way”.

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