The Bribery Commission has felt the urgent need to amend the Declaration of Assets and Liabilities Act as many government officials and their departments “do not take it very seriously” to facilitate such mandatory personal data annually, a source said.
A top official of the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption said except for a very few state departments like the three armed forces and the police, the rest do not maintain their registers of personal assets of its staff members.
Under the Declaration of Assets and Liabilities Act, all government employees in Staff Grade and above, as well as all government politicians, should declare their assets and liabilities annually to the heads of their departments or their superiors.
State officials are required to fill the form, 'Declaration of Assets and Liabilities', with actual details of their present movable and immovable assets, bank accounts and funds of every year and hand it over to their respective department head, prior to March of the following year.
Although this was the usual practice, a recent survey carried out by the Commission had disclosed that many government institutions were not adhering to this and not maintaining their registries of staff asset details, as per the legal requirement.
This came to light when the Commission initiated a spree of legal action against such errant department heads since 2016. Although the act was pretty much active previously, the Commission (which has the sole authority to check on that) did not frequently file lawsuits against such errant officials, before.
The official said another main reason that caused to amend the act was the poor amount of fines being imposed on the errant officials. The maximum fine for a state official who fails to declare his assets and liabilities is only Rs.1, 000 and it is not surprising how they take this for granted.
Compared to the developed countries, this fine is considered significantly low and the laws should be amended to increase the fine at least up to Rs.100, 000, he said.
In a bid to address this issue, the Bribery Commission has taken the preliminary steps to amend the act, where a special discussion was held yesterday in Colombo with the participation of a number of key government institutions as Attorney General’s Department, Legal Draftsman, Elections Commission, Auditor General’s Department, Police Department as well as foreign bodies like United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
A good response had been received from all the participants at the meeting and the Bribery Commission is to sit down for further talks with the Legal Draftsman in the coming days, on the new proposals for the amendment of the act.
The Bribery Commission and the Auditor General's Department usually require the details of personal assets of state officials and politicians for its respective probes, if a complaint arose with regard to unlawful acquisition of assets by government officials or politicians.
In such instances, the probing body will demand the relevant assets details of that particular individual from his respective state department head.
The official further said, the three forces and the police maintain their staff assets registries intact and on time may be due to the strict discipline they require in those services.
Declaration of Assets and Liabilities Act No. 1 of 1975 empowers the probing bodies to conduct such inquiries. (Kurulu Koojana Kariyakarawana)