A blow to corruption | Page 3 | Daily News

A blow to corruption

There is understandably a simmering wave of frustration over the slow progress of investigations into some of the most brazen acts of corruption committed in recent memory. The public has every right to expect faster results since it is their money that has been swindled by these corrupt individuals.

But what is even more lamentable - and alarming – is the belief that corruption is a fact of life in Sri Lanka, that one cannot get anything done without greasing a palm or two. This is seen as normal behaviour or “par for the course”. This paves the way for corruption at all levels, from the hospital gate attendant who wants “something” to let a visitor in outside the normal visiting hours to the crooked politician who demands a king’s ransom to pass a tender. Rampant corruption has a massive and adverse effect on the economy.

Corruption will continue as long as we lack the constitutional, institutional and legal frameworks to curb it at every level. We do have multiple agencies to probe acts of corruption, but they are hampered by a lack of a cohesive policy on tackling runaway corruption.

This lacuna will be filled next year when the new National Action Plan on Anti-Corruption gets off the ground. The proposal made by Justice Minister Thalatha Athukorala to compile an action plan for empowering anti-corruption agencies in controlling corruption and creating awareness on the negative impact of corruption, was approved by the Cabinet of Ministers recently.

Since it is useless to close the stable door after the horse has bolted, the action plan mainly focuses on preventive measures against corruption. The action plan includes coherence and coordination, implementation of the convention against corruption, enhancement of the independence of the Bribery or Corruption Investigation Commission, education, awareness creation, capacity building, and technical assistance that will form a “total package” against corruption. This envisages a collective effort among stakeholder agencies to tackle bribery and corruption. In the absence of a strong framework to combat bribery and corruption, the National Action Plan will become a road map outlining the guidelines in the fight against bribery and corruption.

The Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption (CIABOC) together with the Presidential Secretariat and the Foreign Ministry and other key stakeholders such as the Ministry of Public Administration, Law and order, Judiciary and Education will present a general framework for the National Action Plan on anti-corruption as the initial step within the setting up of the National Action Plan. Public views will apparently be welcome on this initiative.

This does not mean that investigations should play second fiddle but prevention is always better than the cure. However, the Government plans to bring in amendments to the Bribery and Corruption Act by early next year to strengthen the CIABOC which is a multi tasking organisation that investigates, prosecutes, and corroborates internationally on matters regarding bribery and corruption in the country. The so-called “adversarial approach” to bribery and corruption is essential but giving equal attention to corruption prevention is also very important.

This is also significant from the perspective of foreign investment. Investors are generally reluctant to take the plunge if a given country has an endemic culture of corruption. However, this move will project Sri Lanka as a progressive country that has the political and institutional will to fight corruption at all levels.

The authorities have also taken cognizance of the role of education in fighting corruption. Parents should first set an example by never ever bribing anyone, especially in front of their children, lest they think it is quite normal to do so. It will be beneficial to include corruption prevention topics into the school curricula so that children will be exposed to the idea of fighting corruption from a young age. This could ultimately pave the way for a corruption free society in the future.

In the meantime, the Government should do everything in its power to swiftly investigate the many pending cases of bribery and corruption where plenty of evidence is available. Any slowdown could send the wrong message to the investor and international communities that we are “soft” on corruption. There is a suggestion to form special courts to speed up the justice process with regard to acts of mega corruption, which must be implemented without delay. A Presidential Commission is already investigating the bond issue while another will be appointed to probe SriLankan Airlines and Mihin Lanka Airline, both of which have recorded massive losses. Several countries are also helping us to boost anti-corruption and justice mechanisms.

It is a fallacy that corruption cannot be reduced and eliminated. Many countries have succeeded in successfully eradicating 99 percent of acts of corruption and malpractices. But it is a task that the Government alone cannot do – the society must back it fully. We should be determined not to give or take bribes (both categories are equally harmful to society). This should be inculcated in both children and adults. A society that frees itself from the scourge of corruption can go further and higher. 


 

There is 1 Comment

Corruption should not excist in civilized honest nation. History of last few years do not support this. Corruption is everywhere. From top down but top is national shame control it bottom will improve yes we all hope

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