AG tears into ‘corrupt system’, demands political commitment

President’s anti-corruption meet:



By Shamindra Ferdinando


A hastily called recent meeting chaired by President Maithripala Sirisena at the Presidential Secretariat to decide on an action plan to curb public sector waste, corruption and irregularities was told that such efforts wouldn’t succeed as long as the government deprived the Auditor General Department of the much delayed National Audit Bill.


President Sirisena called the meeting amidst the ongoing media furore over the delay in the Attorney General Department acting on the Bond Commission report on 2015 and 2016 scams.


Auditor General Gamini Wijesinghe pointed out that he had been denied the right to go the whole hog to tackle those responsible. He said that for want of the requisite legal remedy his department was unable to take punitive measures, though the culprits were known. Pointing out his department could only report malpractices, Wijesinghe bitterly complained those responsible for acting on audit revelations invariably did nothing.


Wijesinghe pushed for legal powers by way of the National Audit Bill and called for clear commitment from the political leadership to curb corruption.


President Sirisena promised in his 100-day manifesto to enact the National Audit Bill within weeks after taking office in early January 2015.


Wijesinghe addressed the gathering soon after Director General of the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption (CIABOC) Additional Solicitor General Sarath Jayamanne, PC, explained what sources called anti-corruption road map.


The Auditor General has basically called for three key points, enactment of the National Audit Bill, address private sector corruption as well as institutional corruption.


Wijesinghe fired a broadside accusing public sector enterprises of utilizing funds to promote political and personal agendas in the guise of so called Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) projects. The official has briefly explained how people with vested interests used CSR projects for their benefit as they weren’t subjected to proper decision making and auditing processes.


For want of proper systems, the cabinet appointed tender boards/committees had brazenly acted in a manner severely detrimental to the country, but no action is taken, Wijesinghe has said. The AG cited the controversial decisions taken by such a body in respect of importation of coal for Norochcholai coal-fired power station. The meeting was told that the government had refrained from taking action against those responsible and how false and bogus data were routinely used to approve major deals at the expense of the national economy.


Wijesinghe has alleged that the whole process has been manipulated to ensure projects and deals regardless of the consequences. The official said that the coal deal that was also faulted by the Supreme Court highlighted the seriousness of the situation.


Commenting on a rice import racket in 2014 and 2015, Wijesinghe said that the country had suffered as much as Rs. 15 bn loss due wrong decisions taken by political authorities. He revealed how 900 containers of rice had been held at the Colombo Port for six months because the country lacked facilities to store them.


Those who sought to justify their decision to keep the rice stocks in the port had not cared to make use of the storage facilites of the private sector, Wijesinghe said, adding that 175,000 tonnes of rice had been imported.


Wijesinghe explained that initiatives meant to curb waste, corruption and irregularities would only target traffic policemen, school principals and Grama Seva Niladharis. Instead, tangible measures should be taken immediately to tackle corruption at higher levels.


During the meeting some officials raised the need to monitor the funds raised and spent by poltical parties. Some of those present had agreed in principle on the need to audit the funds of political parties.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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