Where ignorance is blissful

Despite several allegations over the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery and Corruption (CIABOC) that ‘justice must not only be done but also seen to be done’, CIABOC Director General Sarath Jayamanne said he was trying to ensure that the standards of investigation, evaluation and decision making are maintained by the Commission.

In an interview with Daily News recently, he said the legal provisions with regard to the bribery and corruption were different compared to other offences and as people were unaware of these procedures, it was only fair that they pointed fingers at the Commission.

Excerpts follow:

Q : There are allegations that there are delays when it comes to prosecuting offenders. What’s your opinion?

A: It is fair by the people to accuse the Commission that there is a delay in the process because they are not aware of the legal provisions. All the procedures are done within the Commission and the commissioners or employees are not allowed to speak about the process. Therefore, there is no way that people can know the progress with the investigations.

Unlike other crimes, the offences that are related to bribery and corruption are totally different. When the police deal with the other crimes they can easily point at a suspect. They can arrest the suspect and hand him over to the Magistrate’s court. But, to prove the offences that are related to bribery and corruption, we need clear and documented evidence to produce to the court.

Q: So the delay is in gathering the evidence?

A: Gathering valid evidence is not an easy task. We have to gather strong evidence against the offender or else he will easily escape the trial and claim that he is innocent.

We never produce the suspect before the Magistrate until the case has met the final stage. We have to work on complaints based on allegations. The informers hardly come with evidence. In almost all the cases, we have to collect evidence.

On suspicion, the preliminary investigation will be conducted and after the full investigations all the materials will be presented before the magistrate. The entire investigation is mostly based on the documents. We also have to deal with complex forensic investigations. Public officers are also often involved in these cases. These are very sensitive cases as any person can send a bogus complaint.

It is we who have to formulate the case in a way that the offender could be prosecuted. I have the power to request for all the details related to the investigation that is also one of the reasons why Magistrate is not involved in the preliminary investigations.

Q: What about the investigations related to the politicians under the former as well as the present government?

A: Investigations are being conducted and several cases have also been filed against certain individuals. According to the Bribery and Corruption Act, it is prohibited to give information about ongoing investigations to protect the informants as well as to ensure a proper investigation.

There is this new trend that when a person files a complaint to the Bribery Commission, he comes out and gives interviews to the media. The moment they give a piece of paper they think the Commission has to take immediate action. It is not fair by the Commission to reveal the information and the Act does not allow the Commission to take actions without proper investigation.

Cheating, criminal breach of trust and forgery do not come within the provisions of the Commission. The police, CID and FCID should do it. Our mandate focuses on bribery and corruption.

More clearly it is related to the fact that a public servant is prohibited from accepting a gift or a reward from any person to carry out duties or refrain from carrying out duties.

Q: There were allegations that there was political pressure over conducting investigations over certain individuals. Do you agree?

A: No. I totally disagree with that. There is no political pressure exerted on the commissioners with regard to any investigations. This is an independent Commission. Since I was appointed I was able to maintain the balance and I will continue to do it.

When we receive a complaint, we discuss and decide whether we need to do a full investigation on grounds of suspicion. I assure that the work of the Commission is being conducted in an impartial and independent manner.

Q: Is it true that the commission is short staffed?

A: I do not wish to blame anyone on any issue. But, I would like to suggest that there is a need to increase the capacity of the legal officers. This sector has to be more attractive for the young people to get in. Many young legal officers think twice before getting into this field. Unlike, the Attorney General’s department, the Bribery Commission only has 20 years of history.

If there are able and experienced prosecutors, it would be easy to gather evidence against the offenders and investigations can be conducted quickly.

Q: Do you think changes are needed to the current Bribery and Corruption Act?

A: Yes. There is a need to make changes to the present act.

Sri Lanka will have to make several amendments to meet the international standards.

I cannot point out the provisions that need to be changed as discussions are underway with regard to the amendments.

Q: Any initiatives taken by the Commission to reduce acts of bribery and corruption?

A: I made a request to the chamber of commerce on Anti-corruption Day not to accept any hampers that are sent during the festive season. The hampers are usually sent as a matter of gratitude but that in a way encourages the public servants to accept gifts. I also sent a letter to the Ministry of Public Administration with regard to that.

Presenting a bribe to get the work done has become the culture in our country. People do not want to wait in queue but look out for ways to do their works as soon as possible. Children should be taught from their younger days the morals of life.

There are also many initiatives taken in collaboration with the Education Ministry to include a few components about bribery and corruption to the curriculum to enrich the knowledge of the students.

If proper systems are in place it will not be easy to break the laws and the chances of bribery and corruption would be minimal.

 


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