“We, as COPE members can only bark; but we cannot bite. We will do the biting soon.”
- UNP MP and COPE member, Ravi Karunanayake
If money grows on trees, minor leaks and pockets with holes would not have troubled us much. Such waste would not have felt burdensome in the country’s development drive. Yet, the picture is not so rosy down here. From one hand, there is always a call for more and on the other hand, truckload of money is poured down the drain to satisfy the whims and nonsensicalities of those who guard the country’s coffers.
In the face of such calamity, one should be thankful for the existence of the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE); yet, ours is a country, where it is not compulsory to have a clear conscience or integrity to become a decision-maker. Hence, any amount of probe and exposes would not shy away a wrong doer or push him/her to resign from his/her post in order to discontinue plundering public money in the name of personal comfort. Thus, every time the COPE report releases, the common question is whether there would be both punitive and preventive action to avoid the recurrence of such discrepancies. At a time when the Treasury is too poor to answer the demands for pay hikes, the money could not flow in abundance where it ought not to be.
COPE has definitely brought some hope when it presented its report last week, in which financial malpractices of 32 institutions were brought to light by the committee members.
The report, similar to those of the previous years’ highlighted many flops and losses the government has incurred due to the short sightedness of its financial advisers and monetary policy. What takes the cake perhaps is, the investment of Rs.1,137 million by the People’s Bank in the purchase of shares of SriLankan Airlines which had impaired by Rs. 848.8 million in 2010. And then, there was the not-so-curious case of Greek bonds, where, according to the COPE report, the Central Bank lost US $ 15.6 million in its investment. It goes without saying the latter was a foolish investment given the fact that the situation in Greece was reported daily on foreign news pages and bulletins. After all, it is not the heads full of textbook theories that take wise decisions—but those with pragmatism.
The report also shed light on many other institutions; among them were the anomalies of the IIFA event, Samurdhi Bank and Sri Lanka Tea Board. President of COPE, senior minister DEW Gunasekara told the House that a complete report covering 235 institutions be presented at the end of the year.
As Mr. Karunanayake said, the COPE has already done its barking for the day; the stage is set for those who bite. Lack of punitive action for the wrongdoers should not make COPE a toothless watchdog.