AG calls upon govt . to address international concerns immediately US anti-corruption advisor to be based here
Posted on December 12th, 2017

Auditor General Gamini Wijesinghe yesterday alleged that the failure on the part of successive governments to take tangible measures to tackle state sector waste, corruption and irregularities had contributed to US decision to propose a Colombo-based Resident Legal Advisor.

Had those who had been at the helm and the government of the day followed basic laws and brought in required new legislation, Sri Lanka wouldn’t have ended up among group of nations categorized as corrupt, Wijesinhe told The Island, in response to a query. Sri Lanka has been categorised along with Nigeria, Ukraine and Tunisia though those countries weren’t offered a Resident Legal Advisor.

The State Department announcement coincided with the inaugural Global Forum on Asset Recovery (GFAR) launched to mark International Anti-corruption Day in Washington last week. Sri Lanka was represented at the GFAR by the Attorney General’s Department.

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Wijesinghe stressed that Parliament should inquire into the circumstances leading to the degrading State Department statement. The AG said Sri Lanka shouldn’t find fault with the international community but take meaningful measures to tackle corruption without further delay. “We should inquire into circumstances leading to State Department intervention,” Wijesinghe said, adding that the US would have had a plethora of reasons to categorize Colombo with other countries perceived corrupt.

According to the State Department, since 2016, the US has provided foreign assistance for anti-corruption efforts in Sri Lanka to improve the functioning of Sri Lanka’s legal system and civil society, and to enhance good governance. Programmes included the provision of a Resident Legal Advisor to provide anti-corruption and asset recovery training, and support to the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption (CIABOC).

Wijesinghe pointed out that Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee Lasantha Alagiyawanna revealed last Friday (Dec. 8) Parliament had not cared to examine AG’s reports that dealt with state institutions. MP Alagiyawanna’s disclosure in parliament that none of the five reports submitted to parliament had been scrutinised and debated this year, underscored the gravity of the problem.

Pointing out that MP Alagiyawanna had declared that the Speaker, the Leader of the House and party leaders should ensure there should be debates on those reports, Wijesinghe said that urgent remedial measures were called for. “Of course, the parliament and the Finance Ministry should accept responsibility for the current crisis,” Wijesinghe said, adding that MP Alagiyawanna’s admission was nothing but a positive sign.

Wijesinghe said the national economy certainly had paid an extremely heavy price for the previous administration’s refusal to enact the National Audit Bill. Unfortunately, those who had repeatedly assured the country that the National Audit Bill would be enacted during President Maithripala Sirisena’s 100 day programme in early 2015 were yet purposely delaying it.

Wijesinghe said their efforts to convince the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe administration of the urgent necessity to enact the National Audit Bill had failed, though at one point a consensus was seemed likely.

The AG asserted that those who had categorised Sri Lanka among four countries worst affected by corruption would have probably taken the absence of required legislation into consideration when deciding on the tag. Wijesinghe said that the National Audit Bill was to be enacted in accordance with the much touted 19th Amendment to the Constitution to enable the Auditor General to excise unhindered authority over state institutions as well as joint ventures in which the state held 50 per cent investment.

Asked whether he felt the government had undermined 19th Amendment, Wijesinghe said there couldn’t be any other explanation.

Having had enjoyed 70 years of parliamentary democracy, Sri Lanka should be ashamed to have been called one of the four countries unable to govern, Wijesinghe said, admitting that the State Department announcement had flabbergasted everyone other than the rulers.

Wijesinghe called the US tag a slur on every honest Sri Lankan.

The Attorney General said the parliament should take up this matter early next year. Political parties should engage in a serious dialogue as to how Sri Lanka reputation could be restored.

Members of parliament on holiday till January 23, 2018.

The outspoken official said successive governments hadn’t been interested in bringing in required amendments as well as introduce new laws. Could there be anything as shocking as an MP being imposed a measly fine of Rs 1,000 for not declaring his assets? Wijesinghe asked.

The Auditor General was referring to former UPFA MP Sajin de Vas Gunawardena recently being imposed Rs 1,000 fine. The AG pointed out that the Galle District MP wasn’t the first former member of parliament to receive similar low fine.

“I’m not here to advise parliament as the Auditor General of Sri Lanka, I perform my duties to the best of my ability. Unfortunately, the Auditor General’s Department doesn’t receive the much expected political backing,” Wijesinghe said.

Parliament should have been jolted by the State Department announcement, Wijesinghe said, adding that the government’s response obviously indicated that the humiliating tag was acceptable.

One Response to “AG calls upon govt . to address international concerns immediately US anti-corruption advisor to be based here”

  1. Dilrook Says:

    US support for CIABOC must be commended by all Sri Lankans. Local anti-corruption bodies have failed to nab crooks and recover funds.

    The corrupt and their henchmen will now hatch a ‘conspiracy theory’.

    Most corrupt individuals use USD to store their wealth.

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