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National Action Plan to combat corruption

A National Action Plan to combat corruption in Sri Lanka which will look into amending laws on bribery as well as introducing a corruption prevention programme will be prepared, said Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption (CIABOC) Director General (DG), President’s Counsel Sarath Jayamanne yesterday.

The Director General said they would also look into introducing laws to curb corruption and bribery in the private sector. Jayamanne addressing heads of media institutions at the Ministry of Mass Media and Finance, noted that Sri Lanka thus far there has been no national policy or action plan on corruption.

Further, for the last 24 years, since the establishment of CIABOC in 1994, bribery and asset declaration laws have not been amended, making it harder for the Commission to effectively deal with rampant corruption in the country. Sri Lanka is also one of only few countries in the world to not have experts in financial crime and corruption working in an anti-corruption agency.

“In 1994, CIABOC was established in a hurried manner to fulfil an election promise and instead of hiring experts in the field, they took in police officers to fill vacancies. So we have had many problems in dealing with complicated crimes of corruption,” Jayamanne said.

Last year however, the Public Service Commission and Ministry of Public Administration allowed the recruitment of 200 experts such as accountants, auditors, banking sector experts through an exam to work with CIABOC.

“We will concentrate on three sections when making the law. They are; enforcement through the strengthening of key anti-corruption and law enforcement agencies, strengthening investigations and prosecutions of bribery and corruption; prevention through awareness programmes and public sector reforms (setting up of Integrity Units in the public sector to monitor corruption within the relevant institutions) and amending laws and policies such as asset declaration and bribery laws in keeping with the needs of the time”.

CIABOC alone cannot own this plan and thus we will be seeking grassroots inputs when making the plan so the people will see it as their own, the CIABOC Director General added.

The DG aimed to set up a culture of anti-corruption in the country.

A 50 member team will be appointed to formulate this plan with special attention given to prevention programmes.

Immediate amendments approved by Cabinet to bribery laws, in the meantime, include allowing bribery cases to be filed in High Court instead of the Magistrate Courts to fast track cases and to allow CIABOC to direct serious cases to High Court where they can arrange a three judge bench to hear such cases on a daily basis. In addition, they will also bring in laws to allow CIABOC to use evidence from Presidential Commissions to investigate into corruption or investigate their findings further.

“In 2017, 57 suspects were found guilty of corruption in courts, the highest in CIABOC’s history,” observed the DG as he promised that they were working on improving their prosecutions.

“Though many say only the low level officials get prosecuted for corruption and the higher officials get away, it is because the former always get caught and those in high places think of ways in which they can get away before they commit a crime,” the CIABOC Director General said.