2 October, 2020

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Simple Regulations To Promote Good Governance

By Rajiva Wijesingha

Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha MP

Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha MP

It is with great sadness that I speak today, for the first time as a Member of the Opposition. Last year I recall a member of the Government saying in a Committee that there was no need for an Opposition when members like me were present. He was being critical, but I am proud of my constant quest for reform, in line with the basic principles of Liberalism.

But it is very sad to have helped to have a government elected for the purpose of Reform, and to find no interest in promoting the changes we need to strengthen Accountability, Transparency and Responsiveness to the needs of the people.

I can sympathize with the argument that we need more money, but we must also show that we are cutting down on waste. We must show that we are using money to enrich the people, not to win elections. We must make it clear that this government is interested in development activity, not simply in transferring powers from the President to the Prime Minister and then rushing for an election before the main promises in the manifesto have been fulfilled.

Mr Speaker, money is needed to carry on the business of government, but at present no one knows whose business is what. We promised a Cabinet determined on a scientific basis, but instead we combined Fisheries with District Secretariats, Highways with Higher Education, Economic Affairs with Cultural Affairs and Children and Youth. And then we change things round, but fail to allocate responsibilities to Ministers for over a fortnight. How can you ask Parliament to allow you to raise even more money, when no one has any idea who will be responsible for expenditure and for productive outcomes?

This is not a new phenomenon. Two months after the election, we had a Gazette transferring the Consumer Affairs Authority and the Cooperative Wholesale from the Ministry of Food Security to the Ministry of Industry and Trade. This may have been part of the horsedealing the Prime Minister engaged in, as he explained to those who had supported the present President and were astonished at the failure to adhere to the highest standards of financial integrity in constituting the Cabinet. But when the government seems actively to create room for suspicion, people may wonder whether we are opposed only to excessive corruption, and the Prime Minister believes corruption of a mild sort is acceptable.

The current and past Chairman of the UNP noted, when I referred to corruption in the Ministry of Defence during the last UNP government, and hoped this would not be repeated, that I should not have blamed the Minister, it was someone else who was responsible. But active connivance in corruption, defending the indefensible, is as bad as stealing public money oneself. And it is worse when the government was elected specifically on a pledge of good governance.

Mr Speaker, in those distant days when I was a Minister, and thought this government was serious, I sent the Minister for Good Governance some suggestions on how we could promote this. They combined aspects of the Code of Conduct which we seem to have forgotten about totally. I will take the liberty of tabling three of the papers, on Preventing Corruption, on Limiting the use of the Executive for Political Purposes, and on Removing Politics from Recruitment. I hope there is some interest in this in my friends on that side of the house who I think were sincere in their commitment to Reform, and did not simply want to take over the spoon and help themselves as the last UNP leader who was Head of the Executive declared. If that is all this government is about, Mr Speaker, we must oppose this attempt to obtain yet more money, with no clear agenda to provide the people with value for the money they will in the end have to pay.

Simple regulations to promote Good Governance

A – Preventing Corruption

Schedule

  1. The Assets Declarations of Ministers, Parliamentarians, Provincial Councillors and those heading government institutions that have entered into contracts of above a particular value should be made public. They should be uploaded on institutional websites within two weeks of laws / regulations to such effect being introduced.

I am aware that there may be some diffidence about this inasmuch as some

Members of the government may not have declared their assets as required. The law/regulation should specify that no action will be taken with regard to such, provided the declaration is made available to be made public at the due date. They will also be requested to make declarations for each of the last five years.

  1. A Commission should be empowered to go into these Declarations, and institute investigations if the assets of any individual have grown disproportionately in the last five years.

The Thai concept of people being ‘unusually rich’ could be brought into play. The Public should be invited to provide information if there is reason to suspect inaccuracies in the declaration of assets. Such information should be investigated, with provision that assets not declared may be frozen, and confiscated if legitimate acquisition cannot be proved

  1. Individuals who hand over assets which they cannot prove were legitimately acquired may be given an amnesty, on condition of taking no part in public life for a specific period.

It could be argued that this is a form of impunity, but we should not engage in what could be perceived as witch hunts. Regaining for the country anything that has been plundered, and debarring further such activities for a fixed period, should be enough.

  1. Any information provided by the public about inflated tenders, undue costs for contracts with national and international suppliers, acceptance of shoddy construction work or equipment supplied, should be investigated. Individuals handing over assets obtained improperly through such instances may be given an amnesty, on condition of taking no part in public life.

I would urge in particular that attention be paid to the information supplied by Mr Kodituwakku, formerly of the Customs, who had to flee the country because of threats against him arising from his outstanding integrity and efficiency.

  1. Officials who felt obliged to acquiesce in abuses should be given impunity for the provision of information with regard to such matters. Provision should be made for such information to be given in confidence.

B – Removing politics from recruitment

Schedule

  1. All government institutions should have clear criteria with regard to recruitment, and such recruitment should be the responsibility of state officials, not politicians.
  2. All Ministries should have an Appeals Board to deal with allegations of unfairness in recruitment, to all institutions under the purview of the Ministry.
  3. Ministries should not issue lists of individuals from which recruitment is to be done.
  4. Politicians wishing to recommend individuals for employment should do so on the basis of qualifications and suitability. They should not mention loyalty to party as a qualification. Recommendations should be addressed to the appointing authority.
  5. Politicians and others who feel there was unfairness in recruitment procedures or decisions may bring these to the attention of the Minister, with a copy of the appeal to the Appeals Board.
  6. Ministers should not make recommendations for jobs which are within any institution under their purview. In case of alleged injustice, they should forward appeals to the appointing authority or the Appeals Board, and request a prompt report and remedial action if appropriate.
  7. Making appointments to boards or other bodies directly under the purview of the Minister should be in accordance with clear criteria. Where the Minister has discretionary powers, he should make clear the reasons for appointments where public funds are involved.

C – Limiting use of the Executive for political purposes

  • 1. Members of the Executive shall not use their offices or the equipment and services they are given for electoral purposes
  • 2. The personal staff of Ministers shall be limited to only such numbers as are essential for the fulfilment of their executive responsibilities. All such staff will be required to provide monthly reports on their productivity to the Secretary of the Ministry which pays their salaries.
  • 3. However, given the personal and political needs of all Parliamentarians, their personal staff may be increased as follows –
  • 2 coordinating secretaries instead of 1
  • 1 research officer as now
  • 1 private secretary as now
  • 2 drivers instead of 1
  • 1 office aide as now 1
  • This gives them a total of 7 instead of 5.
  • They should also be given a vehicle for their use. This should take the place of the permits which are now readily abused.

4. The personal staff of Ministers should be reduced as follows, and they must all be expected to report to work in the Ministry unless the Minister had given them leave, as informed to the Secretary

  • 1 private secretary as now
  • 1 coordinating secretary instead of 2
  • 1 public relations secretary
  • No media secretary, the work should be done by the Ministry media personnel, who should be selected in accordance with clear criteria
  • 2 drivers, without provision for a driver for a back up vehicle. If needed, such a driver should be taken from the Ministry pool.
  • 1 office aide instead of 2, since the Ministry staff can be allocated if needed.
  • 2 management assistants instead of 5. At least one of those should be functional in the Official Language which is not that of the Minister. Any further assistance may be provided by regular Ministry staff.
  • This gives them a total of 8 instead of 13.
  • The Minister should have at most 2 vehicles. Personal staff should have at most 2 vehicles rather than the 5 that are now available.
  • The qualifications of all personal staff paid by government Ministries should be made known to the public, along with the responsibilities entrusted to them.

*Text of the speech Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha delivered yesterday

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Latest comments

  • 2
    0

    Rajiva, nice to note finally sense prevailing. However the better alternative would be to pass an act called Social Responsibility Act whereby holding all citizens responsible for their actions and automatically discriminating the wrongdoers to lower grades and diffusing their civic rights with punishments from confiscation to penalty.

    Hope you and right thinking people would think of it seriously and faster.

    • 3
      0

      Dear Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha MP

      “But it is very sad to have helped to have a government elected for the purpose of Reform, and to find no interest in promoting the changes we need to strengthen Accountability, Transparency and Responsiveness to the needs of the people.”

      Simple regulations to promote Good Governance

      A – Preventing Corruption

      B – Removing politics from recruitment

      C – Limiting use of the Executive for political purposes

      Thank you.

      Keep hacking at it until it produces results. Even if you get 50% done, still it a win, and expose, expose and expose.

  • 3
    0

    “when I referred to corruption in the Ministry of Defence during the last UNP government, and hoped this would not be repeated, that I should not have blamed the Minister, it was someone else who was responsible. But active connivance in corruption, defending the indefensible, is as bad as stealing public money oneself. “

    Absolutely right; the buck stops ultimately with the man in Charge. If this little matter cannot be understood by the parliamentary morons, we are wasting our money and time, carrying such burdensome deadweight.

    There seems to be now a move towards creating appeasement between CBK, MS and MR, a move made by A.P. Yapa. This – if it happens – will be the first step towards the “Let bygones be bygones’ approach with only the poor and foolish voter made to look the perfect fool in the end.

    Not a single person has been arrested despite mountainous accusations and various reports of commissioners etc and all of this shows that this lot are but a lot of powder puff with no real punch.

    Come election time, I will not vote for them; they are counting on mine too much!

  • 3
    0

    De politizing is good. But the present corrupt officers are sabotajing the Governments efforts. Officials carring on bussiness is good. But officials corrupt decisions responsibility has to be taken by Politicians. Many officials are working to bring back an era where they could make a fast buck. A national governmnt has given them protection. They are blocking legistlature needed to evolve an free governance.
    A mechanism is needed to demote, transfer or sack corrupt officials or politicians. The benift of the doubt should be for them to prove their innocence. This is vital for sake of a public that is starving, malnourished and facing violence.
    Your article is excellent.
    Our Eduction in the North and East should be geared to the FDI that is about to flow there. Migrant s should be allowed to reside their to make up necessary manpower. Please contribute.

  • 4
    2

    The road to hell is paved with good intentions isn’t it really? Everyone wants to do the right thing. Although creating a path through the chaos to the final goal is not easy.

    As with Iraq everyone sorta knew Sadam Housein had to go after he invaded Kuwait. Although the failures in the follow-through lead the entire region in flames. So kicking Sadam Housein out is only 1% of the solution to the problem. The 99% is the hard slog that comes in afterwards.

    Keeping things simple as you have suggested is indeed welcome. It should be a gradual process of evolution. Small steps that does not upset the apple cart.

    In the case of Ceylon 19th amendment is full of goodness. Although its too soon to nullify the President entirely.

    So in order to move forward.

    – Add a clause that stipulate Prez is head of govt.
    – Build-in the electoral reforms to 19th as well.

  • 4
    0

    These simple rules look good on paper but not practical. Our main issue is corruption. If you can fix this the other issues will fall in place. The five solution mentioned under preventing corruption are not easy and practical to implement. What if, to whom assets are declared are also corrupt like the former bribery commission.
    My suggestion would be to start cleaning up the police and the judiciary. It may not be easy but could be a long process. In the meanwhile bring in legislation and offer amnesty to all those who acquired wealth during the past 10 years (not 5 years as suggested)to come forward and declare their assets. A Commission consisting of experts and laymen should be empowered to investigate the above as suggested by the professor and should report to the PM or President on a weekly (or more frequently) the progress they are making. Any of these individuals or company directors who fail to declare their assets correctly (plus or minus 5%)should be sentenced to 10 years imprisonment and that 75% of their assets should be forfeited to the government.

  • 8
    1

    Oh pleeease, spare us your hypocritical pronouncements following your petulant ‘tail between the legs’ departure from the government.

    You say, “… but I am proud of my constant quest for reform, in line with the basic principles of Liberalism”.

    Oh yeah?!!! Where was your “liberalism” when you had your head so far up MR’s ass that it blinded you to all the criminality of all sorts that he and his family / comrades were up to their eyeballs in??

    Here’s another: “We must show that we are using money to enrich the people, not to win elections.”

    Right! So what were you doing when MR was going overboard with spending the country’s funds on his campaigns? Did you utter a peep about it then??

    There may well be all sorts of shortcomings in these relatively early days of the present administration (only time will tell of the results), but for you to come on as a paragon of virtue just won’t cut it – not after your dismal display of continuous hypocrisy in the past.

    Your best bet would be to give up politics and spare us your crap!

  • 3
    0

    Rajiva,

    There is a strong need to introduce legislation for equal employment opportunities and all employment to be based purely on merit. This will be a good starting point if can be implemented and will avoid political stooges getting into public service with no qualification.

    In Lanka people do not understand what is merit based equal employment opportunities, equal rights, conflict of interest, accountability, freedom of information, customer service etc which is the foundation of proper governance and administration.

    MJA

  • 5
    1

    BE sad for the rest of ur life, YOU were a LIST MP who was SELECTED not ELECTED….. you could have been there as a state minister and worked for the betterment of the society and teh country, YOU DID NOT coz u wanted perks and positions..sadly a scholar had to stoop to such levels…

    IT is irrelevant as to who does the job, so long the job GETS DONE…. YOU did not want to get the job done by staying and objecting when and where it mattered… YOU CANNOT be in politics, you should be a book worm and indulge in the Education sector..at least that way u can be of service to the country….

    • 2
      1

      Totally agree !

      Rajiva says “But it is very sad to have helped to have a government elected for the purpose……..”

      Are you serious, Rajiva ? You seriously believe your presence helped Pres. sirisena win ? I am 100% sure you did not bring one single vote.

      You simply jumped out of the sinking ship, you rat !!!

      • 1
        1

        True say.. RAT he is !!

        jumped back again coz he couldn’t take the challenge posed by Kabir Hashim..

        wonder if he has finished reading the Book that RW recommended…

    • 1
      0

      Edward
      Do you believe that only the elected people should work for people? If so how many elected members in our parliament work for people?
      Prof. Rajiva was not the only one who represented the parliament. Earlier, GL. Peiris, Mr. Kadiragamar, and many more. Out of many including Suriyapperuma, Malini Fonseka of MR’s national list, at least Prof Rajiva was there as an educated and committed person policy level indiviual.

      True, obviously we didn’t see that his arguments with MR. But we found many writing and discussions he submitted to seek better government. Unfortunately MR din’t applied what RW suggested,though he listened him.

      I thinks RW is brave enough to join with the struggle to create the Good Governance team sake of the betterment of the people. Failure to fulfill the pledges of this government is another matter.

      Please, think whether our parliament has knowledgeable people, definitely less that 4. Prof Rajiva is paramount out of them.

  • 3
    1

    Rajiva … tell us, the readership of CT,where YOU were, especially as an academic when the following happened?
    Previous Govt. allocated Rs 170M to build school in Uganda

    By Gagani Weerakoon and Skandha Gunasekara

    Making a shocking revelation in Parliament yesterday (7) Policy Planning and Economic Affairs Deputy Minister Dr. Harsha de Silva said, that the previous government had allocated Rs 170 million for a construction project in Uganda despite repeated refusals from the Ugandan Government.

    The Deputy Minister said he was not aware of what happened to the said project and allocation but the contractor had been paid USD 94,000.

    Dr. de Silva said so, responding to a query raised by DNA MP Anura Kumara Dissanayake.
    “We do not know the purpose of this project and how the rest of allocation has been spent. First the funds were meant for constructing a vocational training institute. But the Ugandan Government refused. Thereafter, the Lankan Government expressed their willingness to utilize the amount of funds to construct two buildings. The Ugandan Government rejected that proposal too. After that the then government decided to construct a women’s hostel there despite rejections. We are not aware of what happened to that allocation,” he explained.

    MP Dissanayake responded, “This is an amazing story. The funds belong to the people of this country. People here complain of shortage of buildings for schools. There are many schools without toilet facilities.
    No funds have been allocated to provide people with drinking water. But they pumped funds to Uganda despite opposition and rejections from that government.”

    Dr. de Silva said, “The project had been changed thrice. The contractor which had been waiting was to be paid USD 156,827 for their time. Thereafter, that amount too had been reduced and they were paid USD 94,000.”
    Both Dissanayaka and the Deputy Minister were disturbed heavily by Opposition members which provoked Dissanayake to say that those who stayed like meek cats when one family was robbing the country are now shouting.
    “Those timid cats should have made such noise against those who robbed public money and not to disturb us,” he said.

    Like Jango commented earlier, part of which id copy here for ur kind perusal.

    Quote “Oh yeah?!!! Where was your “liberalism” when you had your head so far up MR’s ass that it blinded you to all the criminality of all sorts that he and his family / comrades were up to their eyeballs in?? Unquote “

    weren’t u so deep up MR’s ass? didn’t AKD take u lot by ur horns? SHAME ON YOU… give up writing ur crap on CT so we dont have to read ur utterances..

  • 2
    6

    Professor Wijesingha – one of the remarkable orators and intellectuals in our present day parliament, it is shameful that such a brilliant mind was denied the opportunity to serve the country as a senior Cabinet Minister by the current government. Shame on you Mr Wickramasinghe! Don’t forget it is Professor Wijesingha’s hard work that brought you to the Prime Minister’s Post

    • 1
      0

      Are you serious ? Forgot your medicine ???

  • 2
    1

    Excellent suggestions, the powers to be should try to implement these.

  • 2
    0

    Rajiva,
    You did not make these suggestions before you crossed over, because you knew the consequences.
    Now you are able to make them, which shows the change in the political climate.

    In the old days, public servants worked according to Financial and Administrative regulations, the Manual of Procedure and PSC Rules.
    All these are now in the Establishments Code but not enforced to the letter.
    How many votes will you get in the forthcoming election?

    We, the citizens are keenly watching this pantomime a.k.a government which has so far not prosecuted anyone accused of misgovernment and corruption.

  • 2
    1

    Oops! he forgot a few:
    1. No seats in the Parliament on “Pinata Seats” to unelected persons.

    2. No ministerial positions to unelected persons.

    3. If a member of the parliament resigns and moves over from one side to the other side then he or she has to lose the seat and recontest again.

    4. Definitely no ministerial position for our Pundit Rajiva Wijesinha.

  • 0
    1

    You are not aware the purpose of maintaining the national list.. to absorb educated professional to run the government. Because, in majority of the cases elected people do not have the capacity to handle policy level matters.
    So, Prof. Rajiva is the brilliant scholar in our parliament after Mr. KAdiragamar. But unfortunately, our leaders do not use RW’s capacity as CBK did for Karir.

    As we all know RW doesn’t need any thing from any government and not playing any personal games, except committing for the betterment of the nation.

  • 0
    1

    Park
    Obvious, you are not a loyal person to this country. Please study the objective of maintaining a national list(pinta seat as you said). Mr. Kadiragamar did a great job and held a ministerial position as a national list MP and a minister. If CBK followed you, we never see a great person like Kadir.
    I kindly request you to visit the Ministry of Higher Education web page that has still the work and plans made Prof. RW as the Minister of HE. http://www.mohe.gov.lk/index.php/en/student-view/discussion

  • 1
    0

    “…. But when the government seems actively to create room for suspicion, people may wonder whether we are opposed only to excessive corruption, and the Prime Minister believes corruption of a mild sort is acceptable….”

    This reminds me of a story that my good friend the late Esmond Wickremesinghe (Ranil Wickremesighe’s father) related to me. He said President JRJ had remarked to Mahaweli Minister, Gamini Dissanayake when he invited the President to his residence for lunch that he expected Mahaweli waters to run through the Minister’s sitting room. Yes, was that an indication that the former President was ready to accept a certain degree of corruption though one must admit that no charge of corruption in the form of bribery was seen to be practiced by him.
    President R.Premadasa too knew that some of his Ministers were corrupt. I was detailed by him to investigate how a Korean government grant to introduce computers to the Foreign Ministry ended up in the former Foreign Minister Hammed’s private Bank account in London.This was the most embarrassing assignment given to me as, to say the least, everything was not smooth in relations between the Minister and me.
    The Korean Ambassador whom I summoned knew what had happened and declined to cooperate with me saying it was a closed chapter as far as his govt was concerned.
    Gaining from my experience in public service and exposure to what was happening under the govt, I remember advising my late father-in-law who was a leading entrepreneur who was shouting around saying that his employees were robbing him to allow ten percent wastage on account of corruption.That was how this canker entered the private sector, more accentuated by the flow of foreign aid to the island and award of contracts to the private sector.

    Sri Lanka was a country creditably occupying a lower down place in the list of corruption-rid countries in Asia, far way down Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore and [South] India. All that has changed.Now corruption is a whole mark in affairs of our country.

    Bandu

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