COPE report soon to be released
The upcoming report from the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) is in print and should be released shortly in spite of the lack of action on the part of Parliament in bringing about conclusive justice against the alleged offenders after the first report was released in January 2007.
COPE Chairman Wijedasa Rajapakse spoke at a dialogue this week organized by the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) in which he reiterated that there is no transparency and accountability in Sri Lanka, compounded by the fact that civil society in the country is dormant when it comes to demanding change from the government.
CPA Executive Director P. Saravanamuttu also stressed the need for transparency and accountability and said Parliament should investigate the allegations made in the COPE report and take action if warranted. Exposure is not sufficient without any follow up action. Saravanamuttu said this will only breed more corruption if fraudulent practices go unpunished.
Legal Advisor for the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU), Udaya Gammanpila said the COPE report drew a negative reaction from the government and it has since been inactive. The JHU has made representations to the President on commencing inquiries and investigations into the individuals mentioned in the report but nothing has been done. He also said the media has not sufficiently covered the report in order to bring attention to its findings.
Chairman of the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery and Corruption (CIABC) Ameer Ismail said criticism of his Commission has been plentiful and has been accused of inaction but stated that so far, only one report from the Parliament on 'suitable action' has been sent pertaining to the allegations set forth by COPE. He said he could not comment on the progress of the investigations but did mention that all complaints to the Commission are registered and investigated and vowed to 'do its best' on the COPE report.
The number of communications received for investigation by the CIABC in 2006 was 1416, a 57.7% increase from the 898 communications received in 2005. According to CIABC statistics, 124 persons were taken into custody and produced before court during 2006. Of them, 118 were public servants while six others had aided and abetted them in committing the offences. The police department had the highest number of arrests in 2006, totalling 48. There were a total of 24 government departments and institutions in which public servants were arrested. They include the Ministries of Justice, Labour, Health, Education and Fisheries as well as the Ceylon Electricity Board, Sri Lanka Customs, Excise Department, Coconut Development Board, Department of Motor Traffic and the Valuation Department amongst others.
The Raid Units conducted 215 raids upon receiving communications relating to the solicitation of a gratification during 2006. Of such raids, 89 were successful while 126 failed. Failure was attributed to several factors such as the failure of the complainant to assist the Commission at the time of the raid due to fear or information leaking out of an impending investigation by the Commission. However, there was a steady increase in the number of successful raids conducted in 2006 when compared to the past three years.