the Commission to Investigate Bribery and Corruption ceasing to
function for some time, a plethora of problems arose country
wide. Bribe-taking by public officials and the bottomless pit of
corruption, prevalent in public institutions, have given service
providing State organisations a bad name. The increase in such
practices can be attributed to ineffective implementation of the
strong Action Plan and the public’s unawareness of the
consequences of giving and taking bribes.
Director General of the Commission to
Investigate Bribery and Corruption Piyasena Ranasinghe in an
interview with The Island spoke on the current functions of the
Commission and its future strategies in combating bribery and
corruption in the country.
Excerpts of the interview:
Q: We understand that the vacancies in
the Bribery Commission have been filled. Could you give a brief
account of the members appointed to the Commission?
A: The Bribery Commission comprises retired
Supreme Court Judges Ameer Ismail and P. Edusuriya, and retired
Inspector General of Police Indra de Silva. They have served the
country in the legal arena and security fields for a long time
and in terms of seniority, they have the best credentials to be
the members of the Commission.
Q: The United Nations Development
Programme (UNDP) has submitted a set of proposals to
streamline the Commission’s activities. Is the Commission ready
to incorporate these proposals in the Action Plan?
A: Yes. ‘The ‘Capacity Development
Strategy’ will be prioritised in the Action Plan recommended by
the former Director Corrupt Practices and Investigation Bureau
in Singapore Chua Cher Yak. He has suggested to the Commission
that the ‘capacity development strategy’ is sine qua non for the
functioning of the Commission. The proposals have been handed
over to President’s Secretary Lalith Weeratunge for President
Rajapakse’s notice. Lalith Weeratunge will subsequently appoint
a committee to study the proposals and recommendations, before
implementation. In addition to set of proposals, the UNDP has
also provided financial assistance to streamline the services of
the Commission. The money given by the UNDP will be utilised to
purchase required materials, to recruit and train human
resources and to conduct effective awareness programmes on the
evil influence of bribery and corruption in the country.
Q: Do you believe that awareness
programmes will be effective and people will discontinue
bribe-taking and corrupt practices in the society?
A: Yes. We are positive that when people are
informed and educated on the dangers involved in bribery and
corruption, they would get discouraged and might discontinue
such practices. Most bribe takers and people dabbling in corrupt
practices are not aware of the harm they cause to the country
and economy, both socially and culturally. They will also be
convinced that they are doing a wrong to the society in which
Q: Bribe-taking and different forms of
corrupt practices are exposed through the media almost daily.
Some high ranking public officials are alleged to be engaging in
bribe-taking and various sorts of malpractices. Are the
bribe-taking and corrupt practices of public officials on the
increase or decrease?
A: There is no disputing the fact that the
incidences of bribe-taking by public officials are on the
increase. In 2005 the Bribery Commission’s Flying Squad had
launched 142 raids and 27 police officers, including Police
inspectors and sub inspectors, had been caught red-handed taking
bribes. Four officers of the Prison department, two officers of
provincial councils,13 Public Administration employees, six
employees of Registrar General’s Office, one school principal,
five Motor Traffic Department employees, seven Ministry of
Judicial Services officers and altogether around 82 public
officials were prosecuted.
Q: What about raids in 2006. We believe
that the incidences of bribe-taking and corrupt practices had
shown an upward trend in 2006. Could you elaborate on that?
A: In 2006 the Commission had conducted around
233 raids and around 40 police officers had been caught
red-handed in the act of bribe-taking,12 officers in Public
Administration Ministry, five in provincial councils,five in the
passenger transport authority, four in the Labour Department,
four in the Health Ministry, three in the Emigration and
Immigration Department, two in the Motor Traffic Department,
five in the Registrar General’s Office, nine Education
Department employees, three Excise Department employees, three
Wildlife Conservation Department employees, two in the Sri Lanka
Customs and some officials of the Fisheries Ministry,National
Housing Development Authority, CEB, Valuation Department, and
some high officials of the Water Resources Board, had also been
caught red-handed and legal proceedings were instituted against
Q: Some politicians have become
fabulously rich overnight. Has the Commission received
complaints of bribe-taking or corrupt practices against
A: No complaints on bribe-taking by
politicians have been received so far, but complaints on the
possession of disproportionate assets have been received by the
Commission. Some politicians are alleged to have amassed wealth
disproportionate to his or her regular source of income. The
Commission is in the process of investigating those complaints
and will take appropriate action in due course.
Q: Bribery and Corruption has been a
great stumbling block to the development of the country. Do you
agree with that?
A: Yes. Chances of fraud, bribe-taking and
corrupt practices in any society curtail the knowledge
(technological) and human resources development. This leads to
‘Brain-Drain’ and a perpetual vicious circle of hopelessness and
chaos. In such societies there could be individuals with
‘excellence’ but knowledge of economy (technological
development) and institutions essential for stability, do not
Q: Does the Commission intend to
formulate an effective National Anti-corruption Strategy?
A: Yes. The Commission has already formulated a set of
anti-corruption strategies. They include increasing transparency
in public procurement, increasing access to information,
ensuring the independence and transparency in the judiciary,
enhancing public sector integrity through codes of conduct and
conflict of interest rules, protection for whistle-blowers and
improving transparency in financial services.