- Prescribes bottom-up approach to deal with toxic culture of corruption
- Says SL does not have an adequate legal system to bring those who are involved in corruption to book
- Points out corruption involves public money and its cost has a trickledown effect on everybody
Sri Lanka’s existing laws dating back over two decades lack teeth to crack down on rampant bribery and corruption, which has gripped every facet of the Sri Lankan society and even to make little progress in curbing such is impossible with the adult generation, who are largely accustomed to such acts.
CA Sri Lanka President Jagath Perera this week expressed his scepticism over the actions that have been taken against even the reported incidents of graft, given the lax nature of the country’s anti-bribery and corruption laws.
“In simple sense, anyone using the power (and) authority for personal benefit is corruption. The question we have is, Sri Lanka does not have an adequate legal system to bring those who are involved in corruption to book.
The bribery and corruption laws are 25 years old. In the year 1994, the last legislation came in. And it does not actively give powers to the authorities to take action,” Perera, a Chartered Accountant specialised in risk consulting and forensic auditing, told a gathering of fellow professionals at the inauguration of the third research symposium of CA Sri Lanka.
The Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption (CIABOC) was established by Act No. 19 of 1994, as a permanent commission to investigate allegations of bribery or corruption and to direct institution of prosecutions for offences under the Bribery Act and the Declaration of Assets and Liabilities Law, No. 1 of 1975.
“These legislations are trying to detect corruption but what we need to look at is how to make the public aware of corruption and ensure that people are not getting involved in such acts,” Perera added.
Although the CIABOC’s website gets frequently updated with the latest raids of minor incidents of acts of bribery or corruption, Perera expressed lack of faith in such actions being turned into any meaningful outcomes, where the perpetrator concerned is dealt with accordingly.
In recent times, governments, which came to power promising to eradicate bribery and corruption, got themselves entangled in massive scams, which cost the public billions of rupees.
“People must be thinking public money is like holy water, where anyone can take a bit from whenever they wish to. But what must be kept in mind is that bribery and corruption involves your money and my money and its cost has a trickledown effect on everybody.
I have openly told (Sarath) Jayamanne (Director General for Prevention of Bribery and Corruption), it is not enough we take someone into the custody at the lower end of society. If we want to do this, it has to be done at the top level. And if we do not do that, corruption is not going to be solved,” he stressed.
The incumbent regime led by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa too based his election campaign on the promise of a corruption-free administration and he doubled down on his pledge during his inauguration speech.
Perera, whose speech coincided with the International Anti-Corruption Day, which fell on December 9, sounded less hopeful of any meaningful progress in curbing graft in Sri Lanka with the grownups, who have been accustomed to bribery and corruption on a daily basis.
He stressed that any meaningful progress in fighting corruption could not be achieved only by nabbing the small fish as in most cases big fish are the masterminds of graft cases.
Sri Lanka has miserably failed in cracking down on corruption and it was evident during the last five years, where none of the alleged corruption cases, which were highly publicised, saw the light of day.
The new institutions established to probe mass-scale financial crimes such as the Financial Crimes Investigation Division (FCID), became platforms for political revenge.
Under such circumstance, Perera said the process had to begin from the bottom with the schoolchildren, who are not yet exposed to corruption.
“In my opinion, we should ignore the current generation and we should go back to the schools and talk to the schoolchildren. After 10 years, we will achieve something.
“It is not unknown, from the birth of a child parents try to make them corrupt because they want to put the child to a better school. The saddest thing is that you teach the five-year-old child to tell lies at the interview,” he lamented.