Bribery Commission launches national action plan amidst allegations of negligence

In the backdrop of recent revelations that it has only been hunting “small fry” over the past decade, the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption (CIABOC) today launched a National Action Plan to Combat Bribery and Corruption in Sri Lanka.

Following some 50 consultations with various stakeholders across the island that concluded with four separate meetings held in the Parliament, the CIABOC, together with the Presidential Secretariat and the Ministry of Public Administration, formulated the policy document valid for the period 2019-2023. Among the public representatives whose views had been sought, according to a statement issued by the Commission, were state officials, professionals, civil society members and artistes.

The need for a comprehensive anti-corruption action plan, according to the CIABOC, arose partly as a result of a number of international commitments. Among these is the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) of 2003 to which Sri Lanka became a signatory the following year, obligating the country to introduce a legal framework and a concurrent national policy to combat bribery and corruption. The 19th Amendment to the Constitution also requires the State to facilitate UNCAC and any other international instruments in this regard. Sri Lanka’s undertakings for the GSP+ mechanism, the Open Government Partnership, as well as the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals all necessitate creating an environment that actively discourages bribery and corruption.

Officially launched today in Colombo under the patronage of President Maithripala Sirisena, the Action Plan is premised on four strategies to minimise bribery and corruption; namely, prevention measures, value-based education and community engagement, institutional strengthening of the CIABOC and other law enforcement agencies, and law and policy reform.

Additionally, four handbooks published in all three languages will be released alongside the Action Plan. These include draft proposals on gift rules, draft proposals on conflict of interest rules, integrity for state officials, and proposed amendments to laws related to bribery, declaration of assets and liabilities, CIABOC, regulation of election campaign finances and whistleblower protection.

“The true ownership of these publications rest with the individuals representing a cross-section of the society, who contributed to this intellectual discourse for a period of one year. We aim at creating a new generation instilled with values and virtues, a public sector as well as a private sector of integrity and a law enforcement system which is just and equal to all. Through the collective effort in dispensing their respective responsibilities, we aim at combating bribery and corruption within the course of the next five years,” the CIABOC said in its statement.

The launch of the Action Plan comes in the wake of damning reports that CIABOC, the country’s apex body for investigating bribery and corruption, has only concerned itself with small-scale allegations, allegedly turning a blind eye to bigger and arguably more important cases. A recent Right to Information (RTI) request filed by civil society activist Chandra Jayaratne revealed that only one case of bribery exceeding Rs. 10 million has been filed in court by the CIABOC over the past 10 years, while no cases have been filed for an offence above Rs. 25 million. The cost of running the Commission over the same period, meanwhile, has amounted to a staggering Rs. 2.3 billion.

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