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Mar 17, 2019

Rs. 2.3b to maintain CIABOC

In the last decade, the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption (CIABOC) has filed only one case in court where the alleged inducement was in excess of Rs 10 million. But the cost of maintaining the Commission over the same period has been more than Rs 2.3 billion, data obtained through a Right to Information (RTI) request shows.
 
There have been no cases filed for the offence of corruption where the amount involved in the alleged crime was more than Rs 25 million. The single instance that exceeded Rs 10 million was when four senior Customs officials were caught in 2017 accepting Rs 125 million to release a consignment of spare parts. They have been indicted on 14 counts. The case is being heard in the Colombo High Court.
 
Meanwhile, CIABOC’s 2016 and 2017 annual performance reports show that nearly all arrests in those years were of low level officials and some civilians. There were principals and deputy principals, labour officers, grama niladaris, colony and technical officers, Pradeshiya Sabha officials, overseers, road labourers and office assistants.
 
Included, too, were sub-inspectors, police sergeants and constables, security assistants, field, range and beat forest officers, excise officers and guards, drivers, specialist physicians, public health inspectors, health assistants, civil assistants and soldiers. There were also watchers, revenue controllers, land officers, fiscals, and inspectors attached to various institutions.
 
But between 2014 and 2017, there were thousands of complaints lodged, according to the latest performance report. At least some of them are likely to have implicated “big fish”. For instance, 2015 — when the Government changed — there was a 69 percent increase in the number of complaints brought when compared with the previous year. They went up from 2,345 to 3,964.
 
In 2017, the CIABOC filed 32 cases in the Magistrate’s Court (MC) and 42 in High Court (HC). At the end of that year, there were 111 cases still pending in the MC and 277 in the HC. The offences cover bribery, corruption, non-declaration of assets and liabilities as well as accumulation of illegal assets.
 
Not all complaints are entertained. A preliminary assessment leads to some complaints being referred to other institutions as they do not fall under the purview of the CIABOC Act. Others are dismissed due to irrelevance to the Act, insufficient facts and lack of clarity. A large number of reports are also yet to be decided upon.
 
News of the CIABOC’s failure to nail significant cases or politically exposed persons comes amidst its launch tomorrow of the National Action Plan for Combating Bribery and Corruption at the Shangri La Hotel in Colombo. Ironically, the transfer of the land on which the hotel stands was also mired in controversy, with 10 acres of prime property being sold to the Hong Kong-based investor for just US$125mn. Investigations were initiated but there has been no further information.
 
The chief guest at the event tomorrow will be President Maithripala Sirisena. It will also be attended by other ministers. The Commission has said around 1,250 invitees are expected. Four handbooks are also to be released: ‘Draft Proposal on Gift Rules’, ‘Draft Proposal on Conflict of Interest Rules’, ‘Integrity Handbook for State Officials’, and one on a proposed amendment to the law for areas of bribery, asset declaration, Commission Act, election campaign finance and whistleblower protection.
 
(The Sunday Times)

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