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Bribery commission seeks more teeth

The archaic anti-graft legislation has hindered the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption (CIABOC) from executing its powers to the full despite the Commission received more teeth through the 19th Amendment to the Constitution.

Speaking to the Daily News yesterday CAIBOC Director General Sarath Jayamanne PC said the CIABOC Act and Declaration of Assets and Liabilities law must be updated if the Commission is to make use of its new found powers under the 19th Amendment.

The 19th Amendment gave the CIABOC the authority to investigate into an allegations of bribery or corruption “by its own motion” even in the absence of a complaint filed to it. Despite two years since the passing of the 19th Amendment in Parliament, the Daily News learns that the number of investigations the Commission initiated by its own motion stood at ‘zero’.

Director General Jayamanne told Daily News that his Commission is unable to put the provision into practice due to existing legal barriers and lack of infrastructure. “This provision is conceptually good. It has stemmed from similar powers vested in anti-graft bodies in other countries. However, in those countries there are specialized intelligence units operating all over the country. The anti-graft body is filtered with information provided by those intelligence officers engaging in undercover operations.

“We do not have such a system here. If we are to initiate an investigation by our own, we need witnesses and evidence. If not, our decisions could be challenged in court stating that we started an investigation without a base. Simultaneous with the law we have to develop other infrastructure also,” he said.

Jayamanne noted that the CIABOC Act, which has not been updated for over two decades, still says that there must be a complaint if the Commission is to initiate an investigation.

“Simultaneous with the Constitution, the bribery act and the law pertaining to declaration of assets must be revised,” he added.

“There are major issues in our Act and we are contemplating on amending it. It is very sad that not a single word in the Act has been changed for the last 21 years,” said Jayamanne adding that he would meet the Legal Draftsman on Thursday to discuss on preparing a working draft.

Jayamanne also pointed out that the CIABOC, as per the existing law, has no authority to investigate into money laundering, despite it being a major offence related to corruption.

“We can only investigate into allegations of bribery, assets and corruption.However, our investigations into corruption often leads to instances of money laundering.The FCID and CID have such powers, but the secrecy clause in our Act prevents us from sharing that information with them. Changing the law is necessary to enable us to share our information with relevant other law enforcement bodies,” he remarked.

Briefing on the progress of investigations of the Commission, the Director General said it has brought down the number of pending cases from 10,000 to 4,050 during the last two years. “We have received 1,750 complaints so far this year and out of them we have already finished 800. In most of the cases, we concluded that there is not enough material to prove the charges. Some cases were referred to other Government Departments for various other actions and there were instances where we asked for reports from the relevant institution,” he stated.

“Last year we received 3,450 complaints and this figure was 3,964 in 2015. Such is the case load we are grappling with. We have to maximise our strength in order to investigate into them with the existing limited staff and resources. Among these are major cases such as the Avant Garde. We cannot forget the minor cases too. It is a matter of striking a balance” he added.

Jayamanne said the Commission filed 24 cases in the Magistrate court and 26 cases in the high court this year following the completion of investigations. “In addition to them, we have done 26 successful raids for the last eight months and arrested 32 persons” he commented.

Asked as to how many persons had been prosecuted after completing the investigations, he said 8 cases had been concluded in the Magistrate Court while another 32 cases had been concluded in the High Court. “The disposal in the courts does not exclusively depend on us. It is up to the judges,” he remarked. Pointing to the shortage of staff, the Director General said 200 graduates will be recruited shortly, adding that a new unit titled “Prevention Unit” will be set up with 50 of those new recruits. “The Unit will assess how the Government institutions are functioning and guide them to strengthen their procedure to prevent corruption,” he noted.

CAIBOC DG Sarath Jayamanne, PC