Sri Lanka leaders urged to stop shuffling ministry secretaries; bring back governance
ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s President and Prime Minister have been urged to stop shuffling secretaries of ministries starting from the next cabinet re-shuffle in a bid to bring back good governance which was broken by ending permanent secretaries.
Sri Lanka’s independent public service was broken by abolishing the intuition of permanent secretaries and a public service commission and appointing impermanent secretaries by cabinet in the 1972 constitution and directly by the President in the 1979 constitution.
Permanent secretaries also protected heads of departments under them, allowing them to work justly towards the people in turn protecting ordinary citizens from being victimized by arbitrary decisions of a micro-managing elected ruling class and reduce corruption.
The establishment of a constitutional council to appoint senior officials in the last amendment to the constitution went some way to improve people’s freedoms and justice.
But secretaries who oppose corruption can still be changed by the President and Prime Minister, forcing them to implement wrong decisions. President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had engaged in wholesale transfer of secretaries twice and many changes in between.
Chandra Jayaratne, a governance activist called on the President and Prime Minister asking that secretaries not be changed after an impending cabinet re-shuffle.
"Despite the provisions of Article 52(3) of the Constitution, the Secretaries of Ministries will not be changed with every change of the Cabinet of Ministers; or with the change of a Minister," Jayaratne wrote in an open letter to the President.
"Despite the provisions of Article 52(2) of the Constitution, the Ministers will henceforth only engage in setting policy; and will not discharge the expanded responsibilities of direction and control; and will leave all responsibilities connected with the supervision, direction and control of the Ministries, Departments and other Institutions under the Ministry to the Secretary of the Ministry, who will henceforth be duly accountable for such expanded responsibility,"
Ministry (impermanent) secretaries are also blamed for diluting an audit bill presented to the parliament. Under the current constitution, impermanent secretaries, do not have security of tenure to take correct action.
Jayaratne said ministers and secretaries must also recognize the auditor general’s duties as clearly set out in the English version of the Article 154 of the constitution as the Sinhala version has been wrongly interpreted.
Jayaratne also asked ministers to fully disclose their business interests relating to any portfolio assigned to them and any interest of family members and in-law.
The full letter is reproduced below:
8th April 2017
An Open Letter of Significant Importance Addressed to the President and Prime Minister
Dear Mr. President and Mr. Prime Minister,
A Core Value Commitment in Upholding Good Governance ; to be Agreed at the First Cabinet Meeting of the Reshuffled New Cabinet of Ministers
Media quotes that you both have agreed to have in place, during the next week, a new Cabinet of Ministers, with scientifically clustered and allocated subjects, which will result in economic and effective policy making, realizing the good governance promises of 2015.
Towards achieving the above, I believe the first step commitments must come from the Cabinet of Ministers itself, with them being personally and individually bound by Core Values, in exercising good governance, economy, efficiency and effectiveness, at all times, whilst demonstrating integrity, transparency and being bound by the rule of law and principles of democratic decision making and placing the interests of the nation and its people first.
Towards above, I earnestly appeal to you both, that at the first Cabinet meeting of the newly formed cabinet, it resolves to strictly adhere to the under noted Core Collective Cabinet Commitments:
1. Despite the provisions of Article 52(2) of the Constitution, the Ministers will henceforth only engage in setting policy; and will not discharge the expanded responsibilities of direction and control; and will leave all responsibilities connected with the supervision, direction and control of the Ministries, Departments and other Institutions under the Ministry to the Secretary of the Ministry, who will henceforth be duly accountable for such expanded responsibility.
2. Despite the provisions of Article 52(3) of the Constitution, the Secretaries of Ministries will not be changed with every change of the Cabinet of Ministers; or with the change of a Minister.
3. Despite the provisions of Article 55(2) of the Constitution, the appointment, promotion, transfer, disciplinary control and dismissal of all Heads of Departments shall, vest in the Cabinet of Ministers, but be subject to the transparent and due independent evaluation and recommendations of the Public Services Commission and the Constitutional Council.
4. The Ministers and Secretaries of Ministries will effectively interpret the Duties and Functions of the Auditor General, determined based on the English version of the Article 154 of the Constitution, due to the wrong and restrictive interpretation given in the Sinhalese version.
5. The Ministers to collectively commit that they will permit the Law Enforcement Officers of the State and the Independent Regulatory Institutions, to freely carry out their assigned duties, in upholding and enforcing the rule of law ( including in the conduct and progressing of all investigations) , and allow them to so operate without any interference or undue influence by the Ministers, who will further commit not issue any directions, or best advice, either directly or indirectly, in regard to any matters under the review and progress by the said law enforcement officers/regulators.
6. The Ministers, with the exception of the President and Prime Minister, shall voluntarily cease the use personal security contingents, back up vehicles, special security details and associated facilities, unless otherwise so determined on necessity, case by case, following an independent review by the Inspector General of Police
7. The Ministers, Secretaries and Heads of Departments and Corporations, with the exception of the President and Prime Minister, shall voluntarily cease the use of business class and first class ticket based overseas travel on official state business.
8. Before the end of April 2018, all members of the Cabinet to declare to the Secretary to the Cabinet, a complete schedule of personal and family( family being the spouse, children, step children, brothers, sisters, parents and in-laws ) interests in businesses, professions, contracts, etc and all related party entity interests, connected to the member and his family; and undertake to make a declaration, where ever a conflict of such interests arise or is deemed likely to arise, in connection with any state business, appointment or transaction, either directly or indirectly connected to the Minister and/ or his family.
9. All members of the Cabinet to undertake that they will not receive, collect, claim, make arrangements for accommodation/collection, or facilitation either directly or indirectly, of any payments, funds, investments, assets, transfer and holding of beneficial interests, benefits, perks, gratuitous receipts in kind or otherwise, from the State, any Ministry, Department, Public Corporation or Company of the state, directly or indirectly, whether fully or partly owned by the State, or any private entity or any other form of corporate entity, local or overseas, with whom the state has any business or other connections; and any such benefits received or held to the beneficial interests will be duly reported to the Secretary to the Cabinet and copied to the Auditor General, by the Minister and or his family members and by any individual or institution making such benefits available to the Minister or family
10. Cabinet of Ministers to collectively commit that all appointments and or nominations made to any person holding office at the level of an Ambassador, High Commissioner, Director, Chief Executive, Departmental Head (including a position of a Deputy or Assistant Departmental Head) of the State, a Ministry, a Department, Public Institution, Public Corporation, Public Private Partnership Company or Regulatory Body, will be only upon such appointment being reviewed and recommended by the Constitutional Council.