Thu, 23 Sep 2021 Today's Paper

Battling mega corruption

26 August 2015 04:18 pm - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

A A A

The role and scope of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry

 


Lacille De Silva



One of the main slogans of the ‘Yahapalana’ Government that was established after Presidential Elections on January 8 under the leadership of President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was investigating into the alleged mass frauds and corruption that had taken place during the previous regime and bringing the perpetrators to book. 

With the goal of eliminating corruption and punishing those responsible, a five-member presidential commission was established under President Maithripala Sirisena’s prerogative in March this year to look into complaints of fraud, corruption and abuse of power, privileges and state resources for the period from January 2010 to January 2015. The commission comprises of four High Court Judges – Padman Surasena, Amendra Seneviratna, Vikum Kaluarachchi, Gihan Kulatunga – and former Auditor General B.A. Premathilake.

In a discussion with the , the Presidential Commission of Inquiry to Investigate and Inquire into Serious Acts of Fraud, Corruption and Abuse of Power, State Resources and Privileges (PRECIFAC) Secretary and former Director of Administration of Parliament Lacille De Silva highlighted the scope, the duties and responsibilities of the commission as well as the nature of the investigations that are carried out by them.

He explained that corruption is defined as the misuse of political or bureaucratic power while fraud is an intentional act or an omission designed for the purpose if deceiving others,   which results in the victim suffering a loss while the perpetrator gains.



The procedure followed by PRECIFAC    
PRECIFAC to date has received 886 petitions regarding various issues of mishandling, misuse and abuse, misappropriation, corruption and frauds with regard to state funds and resources. 

The Secretary explained that the each petition was initially reviewed by the Commission under four important guidelines – whether it fell under the five-year time period, whether a Government servant or a public official had been involved in the fraud, whether the amount was significant and whether a loss had been caused to the state. Some of the complaints were rejected because they did not fall under the purview of the Commission or because they did not meet the guidelines while others have been referred for preliminary inquiries to determine whether they should be investigated. 

Mr. De Silva highlighted that there was a team of 30 police officers working with the Commission to carry out investigations and inquiries, headed by ASP Lalith Abeysekara. The Officer in Charge of the unit is Chief Inspector Geethika Bodhipaksha. 

Approximately 225 petitions have been referred to be investigated by the police and investigations are already underway for around 50 cases currently. 



The challenge of battling corruption 

The Secretary of PRECIFAC noted that corruption has been plaguing the nation since independence and had gone unchecked for several decades. He added that because it was an ingrained aspect of the political system, in most instances it was difficult to unearth the related facts, making the investigations a cumbersome and time-consuming process. He highlighted that the biggest issue when investigating corruption and fraud was gathering information and facts. 

“Corruption has been in the system since Independence but in my view, the 2010 – 2015 was the worst period of corruption in history. However, we should not be comfortable in saying that the Rajapaksa regime was the only corrupt one,” Mr. De Silva said. He added that during the process it has been evident that there were a large number of senior politicians and high ranking officials and bureaucrats involved in huge fraud and corruption.

“It must be understood that if somebody does not follow guidelines etc, such acts or commissions are also considered to be faulty and hence lack integrity.  Therefore,   nobody should fail to comply with rules and regulations.It is the public servants who have to face consequences. The public servants who came before the commission said they were forced to authorise some of these expenses, knowing that it was illegal and improper due to political pressure,” Mr. De Silva said.

“However, nobody is immune to these investigations and action will be taken to bring the country on the right path. There was a clause that the President cannot be taken to court but it has been repealed now,” he added. 


''Corruption has been plaguing the nation since independence and had  gone unchecked for several decades. He added that because it was an  ingrained aspect of the political system, in most instances it was  difficult to unearth the related facts, making the investigations a  cumbersome and time-consuming process. ''


State responsibility and what can be done to eliminate corruption 
Mr. De Silva pointed out that elected representatives have a duty and the Parliament was the life of a nation. According to financial regulations of this country, the Parliament is responsible and accountable for the handling of finances and resources. 

“In my view, there has to be an efficient and effective Parliament in which case most of these irregularities and corruption can be reduced. The Parliamentarian has a representative, a legislative and an oversight function. Unfortunately, these three functions have not been performed,” he noted.

“In Sri Lanka, what we need to do is restore law and order. We have to ensure democratic governance. There has to be adherence to policy and values. We have to be guided by rules and regulations which appear to not have been performed. We need financial discipline. The 19th Amendment is a good start to pave the way for a democratic system. We also need the 20th Amendment as the Preferential Voting system is the root cause of all corruption,” he said. 
Mr. De Silva said that several other measures had to be taken to restore democracy, law and order in the country. 

“We need a right to information act and a law to protect the informants and whistleblowers. Right to information is a basic human right. However, with the present situation, even the Auditor General has difficulty in accessing information. How can he function when a system like that prevails?” he questioned. 
On another point he said he believed that the Public Accounts Committee must be chaired by a member of the Opposition while noting that the role of the Parliament appears to have been diminished. The Opposition must effectively perform its functions. 

The Secretary of the PRECIFAC also noted that it would be advisable to expand the scope of the commission even though he said ultimately the decision was up to the President. 

“There are suggestions that the scope of the committee should be expanded. We intend to take this issue up with the presidential secretariat without delay because we have had to reject some of the complaints because they do not follow under our purview,” he said.


 ''There has to be an efficient and effective Parliament in which case most  of these irregularities and corruption can be reduced. The  Parliamentarian has a representative, a legislative and an oversight  function. Unfortunately, these three functions have not been performed,”

“We are determined to push through all the corruption charges that have come to us and expedite the process as much as we can without any delay,” he noted. 
 
 

Investigation which has been concluded 



Investigation on one case – the petition against former Deputy Minister Sarath Kumara Gunaratne– was completed on August 24. The petition had alleged misuse of public funds in the Ceylon Fishery Harbours Corporation (CFHC) during late December 2014 and the use of Government funds for an election rally in support of Mahinda Rajapaksa during the last Presidential Election campaign.

It was alleged that state funds had been used to install a plaque at a cost of almost Rs. 1.84 million for a project to develop the Negombo Lagoon.  It was alleged that construction work on the plaque was awarded to a contractor who was selected from the list of names sent by the General Manager in an open letter without calling for tenders. The advance payment was over 50 percent of the total payment despite the fact that the Government Procurement Guidelines authorised only a 20 percent advance payment.


''It was alleged that state funds had been used to install a plaque at a cost of almost Rs. 1.84 million for a project to develop the Negombo Lagoon''


Meanwhile it was also alleged that public funds had been misused at a public rally held at Negombo Municipal Council playground organised by the aforementioned Deputy Minister. It was alleged that the contract to organise the event was granted to an event organiser for Rs. 8.95 million without calling for other bidders. It was also alleged that Rs. 5 million was paid for the event organised and another Rs. 1.25 million paid to print T shirts and caps, with logos promoting the former President and, the printing of 2,000 diaries for 2015 at a cost of around Rs. 1.09 million.

The report of this investigation has been forwarded to the Attorney General’s Department for appropriate legal action. 
 

Some of the cases currently under investigation

Mr. De Silva highlighted some of the cases that were currently being investigated. 

 
  •     One of the main allegations being investigated is the allegation against Former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa over misusing state funds and using personnel of the state-owned security firm, Rakna Arakshaka Lanka Limited (RALL) for the presidential election campaign. There was one petition alleging that in his capacity as Defence Secretary he had misused Rs.6 million in state funds and used some 500 RALL employees for the presidential election campaign. Another allegation was that of deploying 150 Civil Defense Force personnel for the presidential election campaign after replacing their usual uniforms with uniforms of another type. The leasing of weapons of this state owned security firm for private use was another allegation against the former Defence Secretary.
  •     The PRECIFAC noted there were a large number of construction related issues that came under the Ministry of Economic Development all around the island. Mr. De Silva said that the procedures that need to be adopted had not been observed while it also appeared that government officers had been used by politicians to achieve their ends. He added that large sums of money had been mishandled and misused in overestimations of costs and other frauds.  There were also other allegations against the Urban Development Authority (UDA) and local government authorities – mainly divisional secretaries and politicians at local levels – with regard to disposal of government land with questionable documents. Some of the petitions also cover road development projects.  
 
  •     The Commission is investigating the allegation that ITN has not received Rs. 115 million from former President Mahinda Rajapaksa for the advertisements broadcast during the last Presidential Election campaign. It is also alleged that ITN has charged double the amount for airtime from Mr. Rajapaksa’s main opponent Maithripala Sirisena during this period for Presidential Election related advertisements. Furthermore, Rs. 8.9 million had to be reimbursed to Maithripala Sirisena for not broadcasting his advertisements even though payments had been made to the ITN.
 
  •     There are allegations of misappropriation and misuse of Sri Lankan Airlines subsidiary, Sri Lankan Catering. It is alleged that millions of rupees worth of catering services had been used without payment for Carlton rugby tournaments, International Indian Film Academy Awards (IIFA) and events for Carlton Preschool run by former President’s wife Shiranthi Rajapaksa. The loss is estimated to be millions of rupees.
 
  •     There are allegations against the Mahiyangana Divisional Secretary and the Chairman of the Pradeshiya Sabha in a case of handing over government land and building constructions without permission.
 
  •     There are allegations of financial fraud with regard to the Ceylinco Shriram Building and land. The Commission noted that the construction on this land next to Temple Trees was halted due to security reasons and the land was acquired by the Government. The High Courts ruled that the land should be sold and the shareholders should be paid. When it was to be sold, the then government had received an offer from a Singaporean firm for Rs. 7.68 billion. However the land was sold for just Rs. 3 billion to a different company.
    There are allegations of misappropriation in purchases and destroying of goods at Sathosa.

 
See Kapruka's top selling online shopping categories such as Toys, Grocery, Flowers, Birthday Cakes, Fruits, Chocolates, Clothing and Electronics. Also see Kapruka's unique online services such as Money Remittence,News, Courier/Delivery, Food Delivery and over 700 top brands. Also get products from Amazon & Ebay via Kapruka Gloabal Shop into Sri Lanka.

  Comments - 0

See Kapruka's top selling online shopping categories such as Toys, Grocery, Flowers, Birthday Cakes, Fruits, Chocolates, Clothing and Electronics. Also see Kapruka's unique online services such as Money Remittence,News, Courier/Delivery, Food Delivery and over 700 top brands. Also get products from Amazon & Ebay via Kapruka Gloabal Shop into Sri Lanka.

 


Add comment

Comments will be edited (grammar, spelling and slang) and authorized at the discretion of Daily Mirror online. The website also has the right not to publish selected comments.

Reply To:

Name - Reply Comment




See Kapruka's top selling online shopping categories such as Toys, Grocery, Flowers, Birthday Cakes, Fruits, Chocolates, Clothing and Electronics. Also see Kapruka's unique online services such as Money Remittence,News, Courier/Delivery, Food Delivery and over 700 top brands. Also get products from Amazon & Ebay via Kapruka Gloabal Shop into Sri Lanka.

 


Waiver of registration questioned: Import of covid related drugs, products shrouded in controversy

The National Medicines Regulatory Authority- the independent authority that r

Mysterious disease killing pups!

A mysterious respiratory disease affecting puppies in the Central Province is

Jacqueline Fernandez; Lankan Star Shining in Indian Film Sky

Sri Lanka’s Jacqueline Fernandez who has made a name for herself in India

Young families share stories of pregnancy in a pandemic

For hundreds of expectant and new mothers, pregnancy and childbirth are nothi