ince Independence, we have not been able to make a tangible improvement in the Public Sector. At the same time, due to petty political gains, the last Government too, though it was no longer tenable to inflate the Public Sector, expanded the number of Ministries, Departments and the cadre positions without radically re-structuring the Public Sector meaningfully.
The Constitution of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka together with numerous Acts passed by Parliament from time to time have set out specifically the required guidelines, the powers, the privileges and the legal foundation of the country.
There are enough laws in the country but we have been dreadfully short of good people to fill the positions of authority and execute policies for the benefit of the people.
Didn’t the immoral, inconsiderate and opportunistic politicians and public officials disregard laws for personal gain?
Why did career officials too fail to stand firm and discharge their duties and responsibilities without fear or favour in compliance with all the existing rules, and regulations.
According to the Constitution, Secretaries and others in senior positions, now hold these appointments at the pleasure of the State. Haven’t the rulers therefore selected persons, who had never worked in the public sector without sufficient capability, suitability, qualifications for the top posts?
On the other hand, corrupt politicians abused their positions of public trust and authority. They engage dishonestly for private gain and did nothing to eliminate corruption.
Didn’t they create a notoriously corrupt country?
Let me add that the cost of grand corruption in Sri Lanka has retracted economic growth and development.
"Furthermore, if the public service needs to be upgraded to serve the people, I have no doubt a greater commitment with sincerity is required to elevate it from its present deplorable state"
The National Movement for Consumer Rights Protection has requested the President and the Prime Minister by their letter dated the September 3, 2016 that due to an ongoing inquiry by PRECIFAC, Rishad Bathiudeen should not continuously hold the same Ministry until the inquiries is over.
Shouldn’t the Government consider this proposal favourably in the name of good governance?
Why is the Government ‘feigning ignorance’ about it? Perhaps owing to these reasons there is a belief that the best business in the country is politics.
As we know, there had been a healthy economy and a relatively strong institutional framework during the time of Independence. If so, what happened several decades after?
The former Auditor General S.C. Mayadunne, a decade ago, in a report sent to the Speaker to be tabled in Parliament had raised various deficiencies such as neglect of duties, responsibilities and lack of supervision.
He had specifically highlighted that the responsibilities of the Secretaries to Ministries, Secretary to the Treasury and the respective Heads of Departments, as Accounting Officials had not discharged their primary duties satisfactorily. They preferred the old archaic methods without reforms.
Did they do that purely because their loyalty to those in power paid personal benefits? The new breed of senior State officials therefore wanted to be in ‘good books’ of the politicians.
Public officials are required to perform numerous duties in the interest of the people.
Have they done all that as desired? If in case, they had failed to do so, why shouldn’t the present regime take steps to investigate such extravagances, abuses, simply because the previous regimes had failed to hold them accountable for such exploitations?
Now that a new Government has been elected, initiating probes into such abuse of power would no doubt be a deterrent too to prevent such recurrences in future.
Can the Government be happy that it is on the right path against corruption with ingenuity?
Furthermore, if the public service needs to be upgraded to serve the people, I have no doubt a greater commitment with sincerity is required to elevate it from its present deplorable state.
Shouldn’t we therefore re-commit ourselves so that those traditions, policies and ideals that had been maintained by our predecessors in the past could be honoured, respected and observed by the new generation of public officials too?
They are -:
(a) ACCOUNTABILITY (A Constitutional requirement) Article 52 (2): “The Secretary to a Ministry shall, subject to the direction and control of his Minister, exercise supervision over the departments of government and other institutions in charge of the Minister”. This necessitates the Ministers to be accountable to the success or failures of the Ministries they have been given. Secretaries to Ministries are also accountable to the citizens under this provision in the Constitution.
(b) NEUTRALITY- In terms of Articles 32, 53, 61, 107, 165 every Public Official, Judicial officer and every other person who takes up employment is required under the existing law to take an official oath and subscribe the affirmation set out in the Fourth Schedule. It says “I will faithfully perform the duties and discharge the functions of the office of …. in accordance with the Constitution of the DSRSL”. Let me add, neutrality covers – political neutrality, fairness to public officials and the public and even equality of treatment. Equality demands fair and equal treatment to everyone without discrimination.
(c) TRANSPARENCY- The need to be transparent dictates that the members of the public are entitled to have access to operation and activities of the Public Sector. The new law, approved by the Parliament recently – Right to Information Act -also strengthens this particular right of the citizen.
(d) DUE REGARD FOR PUBLIC INTEREST- Public Officials are servants of the General Public. Their conduct, therefore should be characterised by courtesy, humility, respect for every person with due regard for the public interest.
In terms of FR. 200 the final responsibility of ensuring that a proper system and adequate authority exist for all disbursements of public money rest with the Chief Accounting Officers (Secretaries to Ministries) and Accounting Officers as laid down in the Financial regulations.
In addition, FR. 126 requires the Treasury to maintain control and supervision over the Government finance. Accordingly, it is the duty of the Treasury to set up a satisfactory system of financial administration that fulfils standards in regard to accounting, security and responsibility, which is performed
in two ways:-
(a) By regulations, directives, and instructions that are generally acceptable; and
(b) By instructing or advising Chief Accounting Officers of any special measures necessary in particular circumstances
In regard to losses sustained by the Government, FR. 315 (3) specifically states a loss by reason of neglect or wilful fault on the part of any official, in the custody or disposal of public money, stores etc. the person will be liable to be surcharged with the amount. Why should the public officers be reluctant to work on Boards, and Corporations-if they had not acted contrary to laws etc.?
COPE in several Reports had highlighted losses amounting to billions of Rupees due to serious financial deficiencies owing to mismanagement at the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation, the SriLankan Airlines, and the Ceylon Electricity Board and many other such establishments during the previous regime.
Do you know all this had exceeded far beyond the recurrent expenditure for Education, Health, Transport? Do you know if an officer causes a loss to the government owing to lack of knowledge or ignorance even, they cannot be excused for infringement or for non-compliance?
It is, therefore, their duty to acquaint themselves with all the relevant circulars etc. and protect public property although a large number of public officers, including citizens have not done so during the past several decades.
There had been instances in the past decades, where such officials had been personally held liable and disciplinary action taken for committing losses, errors or non-compliances. Why do they fail to initiate disciplinary action against such wrongdoers now? How did the culture of impunity come about in our country?
The officials who have been appointed to serve on numerous boards are duty bound to inform the Treasury, if at any time, it appears to them that the assets of the Board/Corporation are dwindling due to mismanagement or inefficiency.
The report must in general cover areas - the nature and the extent of losses, the causes of the losses, the steps, if any, which are being taken by the Board/Corporation to prevent further such losses or to recoup the
If the Board of Directors failed to comply with the necessary financial regulations, circulars and other requirements, knowingly or unknowingly, they would then be
If they had authorised or permitted such losses to continue, it is nothing but correct to hold them responsible or answerable. Various acts of commission and omission on the part of Treasury Representatives in numerous Boards and Corporations had been detrimental to the country.
Aren’t they therefore responsible because they have been appointed by the Treasury to look after the interests of the Government of Sri Lanka?
Aren’t they paid several thousand for each sitting at a board meeting? Haven’t they broken or abused the public’s trust?
Let me add that it is also the tardiness that is now in question. A senior public official jested that some members had opened the mouth only to eat a piece of cake at these meetings!
Why didn’t the Treasury send show cause letters to the relevant officials to explain the reasons for their failure to act in keeping with the relevant laws?
May I also produce a pertinent extract from the findings in the Supreme Court Judgement of June 4, 2008 in SC FR Application No. 158/2007 annulling as a wrongful, unlawful and illegal privatisation of Sri Lanka Insurance Corporation Ltd.
– “It is sufficient to say that the conscience of this Court is shocked by the manner in which the Senior Public Officers had handled the sale of a pivotal asset of the State, which belonged to the people of this country”.
However, the main objective of the administrative change of the Government too is to enhance productivity, increase efficiency.
It will also be necessary that salaries of public officers need to be made more attractive. Report of the Shelton Wanasinghe Administrative Reform Committee had proposed a “lean public service with a fat salary”.
The lower grades in the Public Sector cannot make ends meet and they easily resort to bribery and corruption.
The Police personnel are a case in point. Nevertheless, higher grades comfortably engage themselves in personal aggrandisement. Shouldn’t all that be stopped?
Shouldn’t the Government ensure a paradigm shift to create a “culture of excellence”?
Shouldn’t we ensure values such as quality, productivity, cost-consciousness, timeliness and customer-orientedness?
I have no doubt we have good laws and appropriate institutions in order to make this the best-run democracy in this part of the globe. The nation now needs to develop and execute guiding principles in areas such as financial discipline, industrial growth, resource management, transport, housing, education, employment for improving the quality of life of the people.
A UN team of experts in 1969 recommended the setting up of the Ministry of Public Administration to ensure efficient and effective public service including regional administration to fulfil the aspirations of the people?
Have we been successful thereafter? NO!