Over the past decade, the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption (CIABOC) has been exclusively probing graft cases involving ‘small people’, while cases of corruption of over Rs.10 million are left largely uninvestigated, a Right to Information application has revealed.
Good governance activist Chandra Jayaratne, wrote to President Maithripala Sirisena last week about the findings, citing information he obtained from the Bribery Commission by making an RTI filing.
The revelation comes ahead of the launch of the institute’s National Action Plan tomorrow.
“Warrant of Integrity: The Launch of the National Action Plan for Combatting Bribery and Corruption” will be held under the patronage of President Sirisena at the Shangri-La Hotel, Colombo. CIABOC officials told the Sunday Observer that the venue, which will house over 1,200 guests during the occasion, was offered at “concessionary” rates. The Commission hopes to celebrate its ‘historic outcomes’ achieved over the past 10 years.
Jayaratne has learnt through the RTI application, that during the 10 years CIABOC has only filed one case (HCB/32/2017) where the alleged bribe was over Rs. 10 million, and no action was taken against a single case in which graft amounted to over Rs. 25 million.
In September 2015, the raid unit of CIABOC nabbed five Customs officers for soliciting and accepting Rs. 125 million from an Indian based company in September 2015. The raid was launched after the Chairman of the company lodged a complaint at CIABOC stating that the Customs officers demanded a bribe of Rs. 150 million initially and later negotiated to Rs. 125 million. However, four years later, no case has been filed so far.
The RTI filing found that the cost of maintaining the Bribery Commission over the past decade has been Rs2.5 billion.
“The total number of cases, of each category referred to, which were concluded by December 2018, which resulted in the offenders being convicted? CIABOC’s response was ‘nil’. The total value in fines imposed and or assets confiscated/recovered, by December 2018, consequent to case decisions in each of the categories referred to above? Again, ‘Nil’. The total number of cases of each of the categories referred to, which have been dismissed or withdrawn? ‘Nil’.” Replies to the RTI states.
Jayaratne’s RTI filing revealed that the total costs expended in maintaining CIABOC as an institution over 10 years ending in December 2018 are 2009 – Rs. 110.87 million, 2010 – Rs. 140.47 million, 2011 – Rs. 157.63 million, 2012 – Rs. 201.23 million, 2013 – Rs. 180.67 million, 2014 – Rs. 196.13 million, 2015 – Rs. 256.33 million, 2016 – Rs. 317.44 million, 2017 – Rs. 366.36 million and 2018 – Rs. 429.38 million totalling Rs. 2,356.51 million.
Jayaratne told the Sunday Observer that he filed the RTI viewing the CIABOC as a business model.
“CIABOC as a cost centre of the State is well funded. Large resource pools are engaged and are provided with adequate infrastructure,” he said adding that the Commission is engaged in a building project and recruiting about 200 professionals and others for investigation and prevention.
“My objective was to see if the institution was cost effective and could achieve the institution’s goals,” he said.
He said during the six months before and six months after the 2015 elections, there was a large number of complaints lodged at the CIABOC.
“There was hype in reporting over electronic and print media about these high profile complaints. I wanted to see the effectiveness of the law enforcement in delivering justice with the good governance in mind and assess what was really done about these complaints. Was action taken? What sums were recovered as a consequence? Was justice meted out to those affected as promised by the good governance Government?”
When his RTI application revealed that CIABOC had not filed a single bribery case in which the value was over Rs 25 million, Jayaratne said it showed that either there was no corruption in the country, or that there was something amiss about the system that is supposed to act against graft.
“These results reflect and affirm the common belief that CIABOC is only going after small people and focuses more on bribery and corruption of insignificant value,” he said.
Jayaratne said that in other countries law enforcement agencies engaged in investigating bribery, corruption and recovery of proceeds of such crimes show institutional efficiency and effectiveness through their outcomes and justice processes, and recover sums as fines, confiscations and recovery of proceeds of crime much higher than the cost of maintaining the relevant institutions. “CIABOC has failed to do this over the past 10 years, despite massive funding for its maintenance,” he said.
JVP MP and Convenor of the Voice against Corruption, Wasantha Samarasinghe reinforced the view. “They hunt people such as Grama Sevakas, principals or policemen who took bribes, while those involved in massive corruption cases were left untouched,” Samarasinghe said. The MP said he had filed a complaint at CIABOC against the import of vehicles on January 1, 2016, but to date he had not been called to record evidence.
“He added that the work of the FCID and the CID were also being manipulated. “Despite them conducting investigations successfully action is not taken by the Attorney General’s Department,” he said.
“Highest number of cases in history: CIABOC DG Sarath Jayamanne
Speaking to the Sunday Observer, the Director General of the CIABOC Sarath Jayamanne refuted these allegations saying that they had reached finality in many cases.
“We update our statistics every two weeks. The CIABOC website has been named as one of the best five websites. We have recorded the highest number of cases in history. In 2017, we recorded 64 convictions. Even the Presidential staff involved in accepting a bribe were arrested promptly.
However, when asked what the status of that case was the Director General said that investigations were still under way and that he could not reveal further information.
“Our corruption unit has only 20 officers and they have to handle about 600 cases. We don’t have a sufficient workforce and we have called for applications and are increasing our cadre,” he said.