Friday, November 11, 2005

Transparency International - PPPR - Report 01

Here is the report put together by Transparency International Sri Lanka on the misuse of state resources during campaigning for the presidential elections, 2005. This first report came out on the 3rd of November 2005.

I earlier posted a link to the downloadable pdf of this report. For those of you who want to read it online I have reporoduced the complete document here. You can still download the pdf too.



Although Article 28(d) of the Constitution of Sri Lanka states that “it is the duty of every person in Sri Lanka to preserve and protect public property, and combat misuse and wastage of public property”. Sri Lankan elections have always been marred by the abuse of public resources. No one can individually discharge one’s constitutional duty of protecting public resources. In fact, the public should make a concerted effort in this direction as it is not only a right but also the duty of civil society to monitor the abuse of State Resources during elections.

The Programme for Protection of Public Resources was designed and implemented by civil society organizations with the objective of protecting Public Resources from the various types of abuse, and invoking legal mechanisms action against public officials responsible for such abuse.

PPPR, which is now a special project under the Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL), commenced the monitoring of state resources with the date of nomination. It has already written to the candidates and The Secretaries of the Ministries to take appropriate steps to protect public resources during the forthcoming elections. TISL has also made representations to the Commission to Investigate Bribery and Corruption (Bribery Commission) seeking their
intervention within their mandate to curb the abuses that fall within the definition of “corruption”. PPPR has independently deployed a strong contingent of detectives throughout the country to investigate the information received from various sources.

The Common Observations on abuses

(a) Credit facilities are given for election propaganda work to the People’s Alliance by state media institutions, without any security or indemnity and there is a likelihood of the debts not being recovered, causing severe losses to Public resources.

(b) There is a trend of vehicles being temporarily procured on lease/rent basis for election propaganda work with a view to conceal state ownership.

(c) State buildings and facilities (e.g. Temple Trees & Helicopter facilities) are utilized by the P.A. candidate but there doesn’t seem to be a clearly laid out method to recover the losses/expenditure incurred by the State.

(d) There are also positive trends such as the Bribery Commission and Auditor General’s Department taking positive action to curb misuse of state resources.

(e) The Election Commissioner has issued guidelines to prohibit abuse of State Resources and the Inspector General of Police has also passed down specific instructions to give effect to the Election Commissioner’s guidelines.

(f) The media too is playing an important role in condemning and bringing to light the abuses of state resources, with a view to minimizing them.

(g) There is now a positive build up for some of the senior state officials not to release state assets for political activities.

Specific Abuses

We give below some of the main abuses detected by PPPR to date.

01. Temple Trees
“Temple Trees” is being utilized for political meetings. If the selection of this venue is for High Security reasons considering the official status of the candidate, then the expenditure (inclusive of the cost of the facilities and the space) should be fully paid by the candidate. It appears that no such payments are being made to cover the expenditure incurred by the State.

02. Sri Lanka Air Force
Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse is indulging in extensive use of Air Force helicopters in his election campaign resulting in a massive cost to the State. His use of these helicopters for security reasons is understandable, but his election campaign being a private matter, he should make full payment of the cost to the State. But the atrocious fact is that he and his entourage are taking these flights free, under the cover of Air Force “operations”.

Apart from the enormous cost to the State, the other candidates are severely handicapped as they do not have the same facility.

02. Gramodaya Center
State owned Building at No. 152, Galle Road, Colombo 03 known as the “Gramodaya Center” is being exclusively used to stock and distribute election propaganda material promoting the election of the PA Candidate. A senior state official is full time in charge of the distribution operation. Vehicles belonging to the state are being used to transport the propaganda material. These abuses of State Resources are carried on with State facilities including High Security as provided for the Prime Minister.

03. Ceylon Petroleum Storage Terminals Ltd. (CPSTL)
CPSTL is a public company which comes under the purview of the Ministry of Power and Energy.

CPSTL branch of the “Nidahas Sevaka Sangamaya” has taken away two collapsible stages/platforms on wheels, from the CPSTL without due payments and is using same for political campaign supporting the PA Candidate. A decision had been taken to sell this stage to the said Union for Rs. 217,000/-, but prior to making any payment the stage has been taken away and used.

Although the Board of Directors by decision dated 22-09-2005 prohibits personnel from the CPSTL from engaging in activities outside the purview of the CPSTL, 23 employees have been released for work connected with transporting, assembling and dismantling the stage. These employees are engaged exclusively on work connected to the PA election campaign.

Vehicles 47-0580 & 47-0361 belonging to Road Development Authority are being used to transport the stage and chairs etc that go with it.

Removal of the stage/ platform, the release of the personnel and the use of State vehicles, as stated above, are gross abuses of Public Resources.

04. Rupavahini Corporation
Chief Election Coordinator of the People’s Alliance election campaign, a Senior Minister, has requested SLRC to provide advertisements on credit offering a relatively small advance of only Rs. 500,000.

The SLRC has clearly stated on its’ Rate Card that all payments must be done on cash basis in advance. The terms and conditions do not provide for part payment by political parties for advertisements without indemnity. Notwithstanding this condition, the Chairman SLRC has by order dated 26/10/2005 granted credit facilities to the P.A. for advertisements.

It is also revealed that the Minister has used the facility of his official letterhead as the Minister of Ports & Aviation, for election propaganda work.

05. Health Department
Vehicle No- 43-0343 belonging to the Health Department is being used for the transportation and decoration with election propaganda material in Hangurankatha area in support of the P.A. candidate.

06. Municipal Council- Kurunegala
a) A fire engine and a water bowser belonging to the Kurunegala Municipality, with Municipal staff in attendance, is taken to all P.A. election propaganda meetings attended by the P.A. candidate in Kurunegala area without payments to the Municipality. So far it has been taken to about 10 such meetings in N.W.P – Vehicle numbers are GC-8437 and 43-7051. The release of these vehicles and staff is authorized by the Mayor, the Municipal Commissioner and the Municipal Engineer, as demanded by Senior Police Officers.

Heavy losses are incurred by the Municipality on account of these election propaganda meetings.

b) 10-15 Municipal Council workers are engaged for the purpose of decorations etc at P.A. election meeting venues in Kurunegala area during working hours. The release of these workers for election propaganda work is authorized by the Mayor, the Municipal Commissioner and the Municipal Engineer.

07. Ministry of State Plantations
Vehicle No 58-2186 belonging to the State Plantations Ministry, and issued to it’s Legal Officer Mr. R. Harischandra, was used for P.A. election propaganda work in the Weligama area (pasting posters with photograph of P.A. candidate and announcing through loudspeakers calling on voters to vote for the P.A. candidate).

08. Ministry of Vocational Training
Vehicle No 23-1586 belonging to the Vocational Training Ministry was used for the election campaign of the P.A. candidate in Neluwa Town. This Vehicle exhibiting photograph of PA candidate was used to announce through loudspeakers calling on voters to vote for the P.A. candidate.

Vehicle No 32-2558 belonging to MILCO, a Public Company, is being used by members of the National Association of Artistes in their campaign promoting the election of the P.A. candidate. The Prime Minister’s Media Unit is also participating in these campaign meetings using State vehicles.

Urgent Request of the PPPR

(a) Public to cooperate with Bribery Commission, Auditor General’s Department, Police and PPPR by giving detailed information of abuses immediately.

(b) Media to popularize the complaint mechanism so that people will cooperate with the authorities by making accurate complaints of abuses.

(c) Public sector employees not to allow public assets to be utilized for political activities, directly or indirectly.

(d) Commissioner of Elections, Auditor General, Bribery Commission and Police to act together to curb the abuses of state resources during the elections by prohibiting, investigating and prosecuting those who are responsible for the abuses, without delay.

Tassie Seneviratne
Director Investigations (PPPR)

Joel Fernando
Spokesman (PPPR)

3rd November 2005

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