How to save Sri Lanka – The Island

UNP Deputy Leader Ruwan Wijewardene on Friday said that the Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour programme of the government had inflicted catastrophic changes, including the consumer culture of people during the past two years.

Now they buy a pod of beans at Rs 15, a carrot at Rs 25, and a single kos madula (jak fruit bulb) at Rs 10. No longer can they afford to purchase vegetables in 250gram quantities as they used to. It is the Vistas of Prosperity programme that introduced this change.

They have simply been sold down the river by the successive governments of the Rajapaksa dynasty in the most despicable and irresponsible manner! Corrupt politicians are omnipresent the world over, affluent countries in the west included! But, Sri Lanka must be in a league of its own. My research on the subject led me to the useful benchmarks listed below:

When Transparency International released its Corruption Perceptions Index 2020, in January, it was evident how corruption can complicate matters during a pandemic.

“Corruption and emergencies feed off each other, creating a vicious cycle of mismanagement and deeper crisis,” wrote Jon Vrushi and Roberto Martínez B. Kukutschka, of Transparency International, upon release of the report. “The large sums of money required to deal with emergencies, the need for urgency in disbursing aid or economic stimulus packages and the risk of undue influence over policy responses form a perfect storm for corruption as they can increase opportunities for it to occur while weakening the mechanisms in place to prevent it. This, in turn, undermines fair, efficient and equitable responses to crises. The handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, around the world perfectly illustrates the need for integrity in the management of crises.”

To address the issue of dealing with the pandemic, the group offers the following recommendations:

Mainstream anti-corruption policies

Transparency, accountability, integrity, and multi-stakeholder participation need to be integrated into all Covid-19 related programmes, plans, and policies. This includes conducting corruption risk analyses as part of a wider health system strengthening assessments and national health planning exercises.

Increase transparency in public contracting

This includes timely publication of contracting data in an open format and their publication in centralised platforms, designing explicit rules and protocols for emergencies and ensuring they are enforced. It is also crucial to adequately document public contracting procedures during the crisis. Risk assessments can also prove useful to focus resources on areas or processes more vulnerable to corruption.

Strengthen audit and oversight institutions

Audit institutions and anti-corruption agencies need to be independent and properly resourced to be able to perform their duties. Specific technological tools that enable real-time auditing in emergencies must be rolled-out and activated when necessary. It might also be worth setting aside sufficient resources for ex-post audits of emergency funds and communicating the decision to conduct these as a way to deter potentially corrupt behaviour.

Enforce checks and balances

A robust system of checks and balances is a key systemic measure against corruption and any emergency powers assumed by the executive should follow best practice and due process, be proportional and respect time limits as well as fundamental human rights.

Looking at the results in general terms, the 2020 report, which ranks 180 countries and territories by their perceived levels of public sector corruption based on input from experts and businesspeople, showed some progress. However,  Transparency International said that most countries still fail to tackle corruption effectively.

According to Transparency International’s  2018 Corruption Perceptions Index, the continued failure of most countries to significantly control corruption is contributing to a crisis of democracy around the world.

“Corruption is much more likely to flourish where democratic foundations are weak and, as we have seen in many countries, where undemocratic and populist politicians can use it to their advantage,” says Delia Ferreira Rubio, chair, Transparency International.

The 2018 CPI draws on 13 surveys and expert assessments to measure public sector corruption in 180 countries and territories.

Cross-analysis with global democracy data reveals a link between corruption and the health of democracies. Full democracies score an average of 75 on the CPI; flawed democracies score an average of 49; hybrid regimes – which show elements of autocratic tendencies – score 35; autocratic regimes perform worst, with an average score of just 30 on the CPI.

To make real progress against corruption and strengthen democracy around the world, Transparency International calls on all governments to:

= strengthen the institutions responsible for maintaining checks and balances over political power, and ensure their ability to operate without intimidation;

=close the implementation gap between anti-corruption legislation, practice and enforcement;

= support civil society organizations which enhance political engagement and public oversight over government spending, particularly at the local level;

=support a free and independent media, and ensure the safety of journalists and their ability to work without intimidation or harassment.

What we need in Sri Lanka is not international scrutiny of “war crimes” but a carefully organised and peaceful rapid chain of events by decent patriotic people to drive home a very strong message to GR & MR: “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH” !

Sunil Dharmabandhu 


Thank you

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