By: Staff Writer
Sri Lanka Government is continuing its attitude of lack of transparency and accountability in its financial transactions and mega project and procurement dealings unabated although its has entered into a binding agreement to be accountable in matters such as financial control, anti-corruption measures, and adherence to the rule of law.
An IMF governance diagnostic mission has started to assess Sri Lanka’s governance and anti-corruption framework.
The diagnostic report will be published by September 2023 (structural benchmark). The report’s findings will help identify specific priority and time-bound reforms to be implemented under the program.
The SL authorities are upgrading the anti-corruption legislation to ensure harmonization with the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) supported by IMF CD.
The legislation aims to strengthen the asset declaration system, including the coverage of officials and public access to the declaration results.
It also creates a new anti-corruption independent commission with strengthened investigative power. The draft legislation, which does not cover comprehensive asset recovery provisions, is currently under review by a government review committee before final approval by the Cabinet, with Parliamentary approval expected by June 2023
According to a recent assessment conducted by Verité Research, 93% of policies introduced by Sri Lankan Government MPs in 2022 pertaining to health, agriculture and power have no record of implementation. The results reveal the “closed culture” and lack of accountability present within the Government.
Verité Research tracked 15 Cabinet decisions and proposals introduced in Parliament by Government MPs, spanning across the three areas stated prior.
These policy areas were selected on the basis that the crisis was most visible and burdensome to citizens through, shortages of essential medicine, shortages/price hikes of essential food and lengthy power cuts.Information was requested via the Right To Information (RTI) Act No. 12 of 2016, which guarantees citizens the right to ask for information from public authorities.
Of nine agencies responsible for the implementation of the 15 proposals, just three agencies responded to the RTI requests and only one agency provided relevant information that was sufficient to assess the implementation of the proposals.
This is particularly concerning given that in September 2022, the Secretary to the President Saman Ekanayake, informed all Ministry Secretaries that it is their prime responsibility to work for the convenience of the public and that it is mandatory to create efficient response systems in all ministries and Government institutions.
In previous years, Verité Research has highlighted that ‘lack of accountability’ is a major and consistent feature of Government policy making through its ‘Budget Promises’ series (can be accessed via https://dashboards.publicfinance.lk/budget-promises/).
Particularly in the context of the current crisis, accountability regarding the use and effectiveness of taxpayer money is a critical step to building public trust and a sustainable economic recovery.