Good governance in practical terms | Daily News

Good governance in practical terms

On January 8, 2015 people voted for change. The quintessence of their aspiration was expressed in a single term - yahapalanaya or good governance. Now almost three years later, people still wonder whether yahapalanaya is in place or not.

It is not that they do not acknowledge the few positive developments such as the reduction of the powers of the executive presidency, the appointment of some independent commissions, the abolition of the fear psychosis and the disappearance of the ubiquitous White Van, a symbol of State terror, relative independence of the judiciary albeit with its perceived and from recent times emphatic class bias in favour of the rich and the mighty.

What the popular reaction indicates is their discontent with the progress of yahapalanaya or its pace of development. However objective one tries to be, it is still impossible for a political columnist not to leave a streak of subjectivity in his assessment. Hence, we would today refrain from comment and only reproduce below certain observations of the Auditor-General in his Report for the Year 2016, a period falling entirely within the ambit of the Yahapalana Government.

“With a view to promoting tourism, the T1 515 Rail Car of the Department with a capacity of facilitating 32 passengers had been given on lease to a limited company in order to providing luxury services to foreign tourists. As the said company had not taken action in compliance with the agreement, the Department had spent a sum of Rs.2.32 million for the improvement and renovation of the Rail Car by the end of the year 2015. Nevertheless, that expenses had not been recovered.”

“In order to maintain an office in the name of Rail Tours at the Port Railway Station for the dissemination of information relating to tourism, building space facilities of 565 square feet had been made available to a limited company from the year 1987. The lease rent that remained receivable as at August 30, 2011 had been Rs.1.32 million. Without taking action to recover the above lease rent in arrears, it had been leased out to the same company again under a new agreement for a period of five years from September 01, 2011 to August 31, 2016 on a monthly rental of Rs.40,000 determined at the discretion of the General Manager of Railways.”

Laws, rules and regulations

Yet nothing has been done to recover the losses or those responsible were not brought to book.

Again, reporting on the Coal Procurements made by the Lanka Coal Company (Pvt) Limited during the period from the year 2009 to June 2016 for the Lakvijaya Power Plant at Norochchole of the Ceylon Electricity Board “The overall situation is that Ministry Power and Renewable Energy, the Lanka Coal Company (Pvt) Limited, the Ceylon Electricity Board, Ceylon Shipping Corporation, the Technical Evaluation Committee and the Standing Cabinet Appointed Procurement Committee had not exercised professional due care in the performance of their duties, that is, failed to follow laws, rules, regulations and best practices in the procurement process thus resulting in an estimated loss/ additional cost/loss of income amounting to Rs.4,145.43 million.”

Once more no follow-up action has been taken.

In another instance, out of 257,559 metric tons of rice costing Rs.15,996 million had been imported in the years 2014 and 2015 from India and Bangladesh by Lanka Sathosa (Ltd.) “only 75,002 metric tons had been imported with the approval of the Cabinet of Ministers and 152,255 metric tons of rice valued at Rs.9,735 million had been imported on the concurrence of the General Treasury without the approval of the Cabinet of Ministers. Moreover, the approval of the Board of Directors had not been obtained for the stocks of 30,302 metric tons of rice valued at Rs.1,914 million imported directly by the Lanka Sathosa and purchases had been made on the instructions of the Chairman.”

Again, the same situation with no action taken.

In year 2016 provision of Rs.121 billion had been made under the Object 126-2-4-1-1407 Cost of Maintenance of the Public Investments (Lands and Buildings) of the Ministry of Education. However, no expenditure whatsoever had been incurred from that provision in the year 2016 that represented 88 per cent of the total.”

Yet the authorities talk of record expenses for school maintenance at public meetings to dupe the public.

Instead of the promises to relieve the poor of the tax burden by changing the ratio of direct to indirect taxes (such as custom duties, BTT, VAT etc.) from 80:20 to 60:40, in the year 2016 the ratio has gone further up reaching 82.31:17.69 per cent. Katawa dolawen, gamana payin. (Boasts of luxurious travelling while walking barefoot.)

Department of Excise has total arrears of revenue inclusive of the penalties amounting to Rs.2,545 million. “Out of that … 57 per cent represented arrears existing over periods exceeding 5 years.”

Lethargy, inefficiency and indifference

“The contract relating to the printing of the number plates of the motor vehicles registered in the Department had been awarded to a private contractor Company for the period May 01, 2010 to April 30, 2015. Even though quotations should have been invited and a contractor for the period after April 30, 2015 should have been selected, the contract period had been extended at the old price from time to time from May 01, 2015 to October 31, 2017.”

These examples were taken at random. Yet it throws light on the bigger picture. Nothing has changed. It is the status quo ante that prevails. This shows not only the lethargy, inefficiency and indifference of the public servants but also the camaraderie of laws, rules, regulations with the errant officialdom. Something more than platform preaching and warnings is required.

Problems are known.

Malaise is identified. Yet, no one is interested in a cure. For example, those in authority know that much of the food in the market, including agricultural products are unhealthy due to the use of various toxic substances in their preparation. Even the highest in the land acknowledges it. Yet nothing is done about it. They wish to let people suffer slow death, instead of punishing the culprits. They could at least ensue that more frequent raids are conducted and stricter rules be observed. At least the enthusiasm in taking people to court on account of “breeding mosquitos” is not replicated in this instance. There is an acute shortage of Public Health Inspectors (PHIs) and some local bodies have only one or two. At a time when elected representatives have begun to multiply like amoeba, it would not be out of tune to increase the number of PHIs. 



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