For a new look CIABOC | Daily News


For a new look CIABOC

The main story carried in our weekend publication, the Sunday Observer, reflecting the laxity in investigating cases of bribery and corruption, no doubt, will come as no surprise to many. This is one of the prime reasons for the evil of bribery and corruption to be deeply institutionalized, in the manner it has, in our society.

According to the news item, well known good governance activist Chandra Jayaratne, in response to a Right to Information Query from the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery and Corruption (CIABOC) has gathered that only one case had been filed by the Commission where the sum involved was over Rs. 10 million, during entirety of the past decade, and, no action whatsoever has been taken even against a single instance in which the graft amounted to was Rs.25 million.

What is more, Jayaratne said during the six months before and six months after the 2015 Presidential elections there was a huge number of high profile complaints lodged with the CIABOC. “What was really done about these complaints? Was action taken? What sums were recovered as consequence? Was justice meted out to the culprits as promised by the Good Governance Government?” What he eventually discovered was that not a single bribery case was filed where the sum amounted to was over Rs. 25 million. Jayaratne said it showed there was something amiss in the system. This, in the backdrop of Rs. 2.5 billion spent during the last decade to maintain the Commission.

Of course, the Director General of the CIABOC Sarath Jayamanne denied these claims and said the Commission, in fact, had filed the highest number of cases in its history. Be that as it may, during the early days of the Chandrika Government all parties represented in Parliament came together to approve the new Bribery Act that saw the then Bribery Commission assuming the new title of Commission to Investigation Allegations of Bribery and Corruption. The new law did away with the earlier practice of the Bribery Commission acting only on complaints and empowered it with the more pro-active role of acting on its own volition to go after the corrupt.

Apparently, the Commission has been resting on its laurels all these years and it has taken a spirited civil society activist to unravel the sorry state of affairs at the country’s premier institution fighting bribery and corruption. Like Jayaratne said, there was a flood of complaints streaming into the Commission in the immediate aftermath of the 2015 Presidential Election, with the attendant publicity. Whatever happened to these complaints one needs to ask?

Besides, what become of the case filed against a former deputy minister, and, now, prominent Joint Opposition spokesman, who failed to account for Rs 400 million worth of assets and when summoned before the Commission, kept away, claiming he was stung by a “Polanga” (Russell’s Viper). True, the case does surface from time to time but just as soon gets submerged.

Why cannot the Commission display the same enthusiasm it shows in nabbing and prosecuting police officers, school principals, Gramasevakas et al, when it comes to the fat cats, who, unlike these minions, bleed the economy dry? Bribery is today macro, as anyone knows.

Hence, the conclusion is inescapable that whatever protestations to the contrary, the CIABOC is still being weighed down by political pressure and is not the independent body it prides in calling itself, though, admittedly, its top officials are today more vocal and appear to be taking a more proactive role unlike in the Rajapaksa era where the Commission existed only in name.

Be that as it may, the steps taken by President Maithripala Sirisena in tackling large scale bribery and corruption, in a more effective way, have to be appreciated. He has take several initiatives in this regard including attempts to change present Bribery Act in order to create a strong platform for the subject to be dealt with in all seriousness. Of course, the Yahapalanaya Government, which he headed, rode to power, with tackling bribery and corruption as its main plank.

For some reason the fight against corruption lost steam midway into the new Government’s tenure, what with even the lady CIABOC Director General having to quit her post. There were also allegations of ‘deals’ being struck between the two political camps to thwart investigations. All this naturally put a damper on the people’s expectations of bringing to book those who robbed the State coffers and was chiefly attributed to the Yahapalanaya Government’s drubbing at the LG elections.

Hopefully, the new National Action Plan for combating Bribery and Corruption, launched under the aegis of President Sirisena yesterday, will change the whole outlook of tackling bribery and corruption and restore public confidence in the CIABOC. Above all, the initiative should also ensure that bribery and corruption is tackled big time and no politician or powerful personage spared in the exercise. The fish, they say, starts rotting from the head. Hence, the need to deal firmly with the big time operators, if bribery and corruption is to be removed root and branch from society. 

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