26 November, 2020

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Why, In The Words Of Our President, Are More Than Half Of Public-Sector Contracts Corrupt?

By Gamini Jayaweera

Gamini Jayaweera

Gamini Jayaweera

The Hon. President Mr. Maithripala Sirisena addressing a public meeting of police and anti-corruption activists in Colombo said that he was regretted to inform the nation that more than 50% of Sri Lanka’s public procurement contracts were tainted by bribery and corruption. The nation is not surprised about the Hon. President’s statement because the public are fully aware of the bribery and corruption activities of successive governments and its continuation under Maithri-Ranil leadership for the last two years. But the nation is surprised to learn that the President knows the people who are involved in this dirty business, but he is unable to reveal the names because of the fear of organised strikes by the corruptors. If this statement is correct it is a very serious threat to our democracy because it appears that the government institutions are not run by the elected representatives but by the organised fraudsters who operate above the law of the land. But the public believe that the root cause of this cancerous activity lies within the top of the government. As the Hon. President, has quite rightly stated fooling people with empty words such as” Good Governance” is no joke because the culprits are holding responsible positions in the government with the blessing of some politicians. We need to cast our minds back to the last two years to see how the corruption has continued under this government and what the root causes of this problem are before we criticise the corrupt process of procuring public contracts.

Millions of Srilankans who voted for Mr. Maithripala Sirisena and Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe were hoping that the new government would develop policies and take decisive actions to work towards creating a new political culture to govern our country, where we would maintain Law & Order, Justice, and Efficient government service with zero tolerance for bribery & corruption. I, like many other civil society members published articles denouncing the previous regime, and extensively used the social media to gather electoral support for the new government during the election campaigns. We placed our trust and pinned our hopes that we could begin a new chapter in our society. The over whelming majority of the people who voted for this government did not expect to hear that the government was unable to name the culprits because of a backlash from the fraudsters. I firmly believe that if the President can name these culprits the nation is right behind the President and they won’t allow these fraudsters to hold the elected government to a ransom. But it appears that there is something more than the threat of strikes is behind the President’s decision to withhold the names of these culprits. Is it because close government colleagues are involved in this dirty business? Preaching what the public wants to hear during the election campaign and then practising something else once in government was the customary way our country had been governed by successive governments. Is it fair to assume that this government is also following the same path irrespective of their promises given during the election campaign?

Is it reasonable to accept the allegations that the very first kind of “bribe” under the new government was executed by the newly elected President by appointing members of parliament from the previous regime who could not gather the public trust and lost the general election, as Ministers and State/Deputy Ministers of the new government? Most of them played vital roles in the previous corrupt regime and the public are aware of the corrupt practices carried out by some of these politicians. At the time there were lot of opposition to these appointments from the members of civil societies who tirelessly campaigned, risking their lives to replace the previous regime. Unfortunately, the Hon. President ignored the public outcry stating that those defeated members were victims of a campaign carried out by the Mahinda faction of the SLFP because they supported him against the will of the former President. Recently the Hon. President has given other reasons for his unethical action to appoint these defeated MPs. Nevertheless, the appointment of the defeated members as ministers and state/deputy ministers in the new government could be seen as a “bribe” for supporting the President who would have lost the majority support in the Central Committee of his own party (SLFP) if he had not elected these defeated members.

Allegations had been made that the next kind of “bribe” introduced by the President and the Prime Minister, was appointing most of their MPs as Ministers or State/Deputy Ministers to gain support for the government. During the pre-election period the leaders of the “Yahapalanaya” quite rightly criticised the size of the cabinet in the previous regime and promised us that they would not follow the same path of appointing a “Jumbo Cabinet” because it would cost the country a vast amount of money to maintain it. The impression given to the nation was that the cabinet would be a maximum of thirty (30). But the total no. of ministerial, and state/deputy ministerial posts has risen to nearly 100. This unnecessary “Jumbo Cabinet” set up by the President and the Prime Minister is not based on the requirements to serve a small country like ours, but it appears that the appointees have been allowed to serve well for themselves in return for their support for the government. Is it fair and reasonable to assume that these are “bribes’ offered by the government undermining the principles of “Yahapalanaya” hence fooling the people with empty words?

During the pre and post-election periods some members of the present regime highlighted a number of allegations against the previous regime of Bribery & Corruption, Misuse of public finance, Acquiring enormous amount of wealth within a short period of time, Drug dealings, Alleged murders, Exorbitant high prices for road construction, Use of Judiciary to obtain judgments in favour of members of previous regime, and Alleged Coup by the former president to stay in power etc. Are our newly elected/appointed government ministers and MPs sincere about these allegations, because the public is fed up with them and to-date no action has been taken on most of them? It appears that some members in the current regime are actively involved in agreeing to “deals (bribes)” to safeguard the dishonest politicians because they are connected to each other. If this is true isn’t it fair to assume that the corruption stems from the top of the government and hence the inability to name the culprits?

It is a fact that government institutions and state corporations in Sri Lanka play a vital role in the country’s economy as well as providing a major contribution to the social and technological developments. It is also a well-known fact that majority of these corporations’ performance is inefficient, uneconomic and very much below the generally acceptable level. It appears that appointment of politically affiliated people as CEOs and Directors without giving due consideration for their ability and experience to run these organisations, at the expense of experienced professionals, may have been contributed for poor operation, performance and management of majority of these organisations. In addition lack of processes, procedures, transparency, accountability, and the absence of corporate governance coupled with lax entrepreneurship and rampant corruption in the procurement of public contract, and other unethical activities, have also contributed to the dismal performance exhibited by the majority of these institutions.

Corporate Governance of state-owned Corporations is a difficult and major challenge in Sri Lanka because of increased political interference in the management of these institutions. It is understood and accepted by the public that the government is responsible for electing Chairmen and the Board of Directors to run them. There is no problem in carrying out those functional responsibilities by the government. The problem is undue political interference in the management of those organisations by corrupt politicians. The Hon. President’s concern over the corrupt practices of procurement of public contracts are part and parcel of this unacceptable political interference. Good governance provides better transparency of how the organisation is structured and operates in a professional and accountable manner. Good corporate governance also reduces the opportunities for undue political interference. Transparency and efficiency in corporate governance should have been implemented during the last two years to ensure that management of our public institutions is credible and they are in line with international regulations. Is it fair and reasonable to assume that the dishonest politicians, and their cronies, are the root cause for processing more than 50% of public procurement contracts in a corrupt manner?

The Doctrine of Buddhism has specified the rules for governing a country in a proper and peaceful manner and these rules are known as “Dasa Raja Dharma”. Any political system, any political ideology, or any political party can apply these ten rules if they want to create a just society in the country. As Lord Buddha said in Anguttara Nikaya “When the ruler of a country is just and good, the ministers become just and good; when the ministers are just and good, the higher officials become just and good; when the higher officials are just and good, the rank and file become just and good; when the rank and file become just and good, the people become just and good”. This is natural law. Appointing corrupt politicians as Ministers and State/Deputy Ministers and their cronies as CEOs/Directors in the government institutions will naturally lead to corrupt procurement practices in the public sector.

In conclusion, I would like to remind our rulers that spending public money for conducting conferences, publishing pamphlets, etc. to eradicate bribery and corruption is a waste unless the rulers practice what they preach. The Hon. President’s decision not to name these fraudsters for the fear of alleged threat of strikes cannot be accepted as a defence for the continuation of corrupt practices by the government institutions. Clear majority of Srilankans who voted for a real change in our political culture believe that it is still not too late for the Hon. President to act like a statesman and reveal the names of these fraudsters who are plundering public funds and violating our democratic values. As Martin Lither King Jr. said “There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.”

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Latest comments

  • 8
    0

    Biggest fraud is the President Maithripala Sirisdena himself. He told a lie to the people accusing the former President Rajapakse and others with him of massive scale violation of human rights and corruption and after stabbing his former boss in the back after having enjoyed all the fallouts of the former Government being a very influential minister cheated the people and got himself elected as the President.

    He then appoints the same ministers of the former Government whom he accused as corrupt to very high positions. Then he made a bogus investigations into various allegations such as Thajudeen’s murder and other crimes and nothing came out of it after wasteful of colossal sum of money just stage a drama and keep his voters ‘happy’. Accused the officers of the Crime division of investigation war heroes and stopped the investigations interfering with the crime department.

    You take my word he will apologize to the former President and make up with him knowing very well that it will be Rajapkase who will come back again and he have to secure his future with him and continue to cheat the people as he always did as a Minister under Rajapkse but try to come as Mr.Clean but miserably failed. I reliably under stand such a move and negotiations with former President is already taking place.

    Maithripala Sirisena is the biggest fraud who cheated all the people who voted him to power on the promise he will investigate and throw all the corrupt Ministers to jail and really named them but he rewarded them with Ministerial posts in his Government too! He did nothing and so what Rajapakse said about him is true that he did a dirtiest thing of back stabbing him after having enjoyed all the privileges of Rajapakse and so he is the most dirtiest ungrateful animal (humans are animals).

    • 4
      0

      It is not just 50% or more public sector officials that are corrupt but also more than 50% of politicians are corrupt. The sale of duty free car permits is just the tip of the iceberg.

      Whenever imports are done money is made. It may be rice, essential goods, pharma or coal or LPG imports etc.

      Look at all recent mega transactions and politicians and govt officials made money

      Norochcholai coal Plant
      EPF investments
      Hedging deal
      VAT scam
      Highway and Expressway robbery
      Bond scam
      65,000 houses deal
      Hambantota Port deal
      Avant Garde

      The list just goes on. The tax payers have lost billions of dollars!!

      The only way is to minimize such corruption is to have an independent and competent Police and Judiciary. Unfortunately the best and the smartest don’t join any of these institutions and the root cause is that.

    • 5
      0

      Gamini Jayaweera

      RE:Why, In The Words Of Our President, Are More Than Half Of Public-Sector Contracts Corrupt?

      Shrikharan Says:

      “Biggest fraud is the President Maithripala Sirisdena himself. He told a lie to the people accusing the former President Rajapakse and others with him of massive scale violation of human rights and corruption and after stabbing his former boss in the back after having enjoyed all the fallouts of the former Government being a very influential minister cheated the people and got himself elected as the President. “

      This is the opinion of most who voted for Sirisena. As a resilt hehas earned the titles of

      Turncoat
      Traitor
      Gona ( Sinhala Colloquial)
      Mala-Perethaya ( Eating off the dead)

      and in addition is sharing the stolen booty of Mahinda Rajapaksa and his cronies.

    • 3
      0

      Shrikaran,
      You have put it in a nutshell.

      Whatever/whichever form of “parliament” comes in, by whichever constitution, the most important consideration by ALL members of the farcical body called the Constitutional Council, is political survival and enhancement of salaries, allowances and permits etc. to all MPs.

      Every regime, aligns itself with corrupt past regimes/members of corrupt past regimes, to ensure political survival and lifelong financial security to all members of the regime.

      The latest farce called a “constituent assembly” is right now consolidating its future survival, as another “parliament in situ”.

  • 2
    2

    “As Martin Lither King Jr. said “There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.”

    Yeah, yeah but what happened to Martin Luther King Jr?

    • 2
      0

      Lone Wolf,
      Please read the following 2 quotes to understand the word “Conscience”.

      “The only tyrant I accept in this world is the ‘still small voice’ within me. And even though I have to face the prospect of being a minority of one, I humbly believe I have the courage to be in such a hopeless minority.”
      ― Mahatma Gandhi,

      “The ultimate test of man’s conscience may be his willingness to sacrifice something today for future generations whose words of thanks will not be heard.”
      ― Gaylord Nelson

  • 6
    0

    Corruption begins from the Parliament. It is pointless casting accusations at any politicians any more as they are buying time till election time. It had been UNP SLFP alternatively and now UNP+SLFP since independence. People will have to choose another party next time and see whether a change for good could be made. Of course the pensions and privileges for politicians has to be cancelled as they had not performed.

  • 1
    2

    Why not make it short – Capital Punishment!, as in China for major Fraudsters.
    The local situation can only be curbed by such Laws and not by any type of gon-gamaralla political consciense. Will they make a start – over to the Civil Society
    Activists.
    It is rumoured that even these Activists will be bought over as newly appointed
    State Officials, at the time of the next Cabinet Shuffle??

    • 1
      0

      What’s the use? Poor criminals will be executed. Rich influential criminals will escape.

  • 1
    0

    Gamini,

    The nations is surprised at the Hon Presidents claim, “inform the nation that more than 50% of Sri Lanka’s public procurement contracts were tainted by bribery and corruption.” The nation indeed know that 100% of public issued contracts are tainted with bribery and corruption.

  • 2
    0

    They came to power saying they would stop corruption.Now,afteralmosttwo years,they say,50%ormore is morecorruption.

    FCID is direcgly under under Ranil Wickramasinghe.

  • 2
    0

    The simple answer is that there is no political will to change this corrupt culture.

  • 0
    0

    All are corrupt

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