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Over 2,000 recommendations of parliamentary watchdog committees ignored

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COPE and COPA toothless tigers?

by Saman Indrajith

More than 2,000 recommendations made by the parliamentary watchdog committees, COPE (Committee on Public Enterprises) and COPA (Committee on Public Accounts) with the objective of preventing corruption in public institutions have not been implemented by the relevant state agencies and officials, parliament sources told the Sunday Island.

Corrupt practices continued despite repeated warnings and recommendations by the two committees which uncover frauds after expending much effort and time, these sources said pointing out that among those institutions ignoring the implementation of recommendations were the Department of Inland Revenue, Customs Department, Excise Department, Education Ministry, Department of Wildlife Conservation and some local government bodies.

Sources alleged that some officials who had charges against them have deliberately kept away from committee sessions.

“It has been noticed that officials responsible for many instances of financial misappropriation find excuses such as leaving the country when they are summoned before the COPE or COPA,” a senior parliament official said.

Former Speaker Karu Jayasuriya in an attempt to promote transparency and accountability of the COPE and COPA opened previously closed door meetings to the media.

“The committees expose wrong doings of officials in public sector institutions and ministries and then the media reports them. COPE and COPA make recommendations to rectify the errors but the malpractices continue. There is no way for the Committees to compel the officials to act on their recommendations. So the committees have been often called toothless tigers,” the official said.

Incumbent COPE Chairman, Prof Charitha Herath, said that the situation could not be changed without amending Standing Orders of Parliament. “We expose massive losses and waste of public money. Yet we have no powers to compel the officials to implement our recommendations. For that purpose existing Standing Orders should be changed,” Prof Herath said.

Asked to comment, incumbent Chairman of COPA, Prof Tissa Vitarana said that this issue had been raised several times at COPA meetings. “Some officials have acted on recommendations while many have ignored them. When the officials do not rectify bad practices that would raise a question of accountability of state owned enterprises and other public sector institutions such as ministries.

“COPE and COPA are key committees that oversees state owned enterprises and examines the accounts relating to appropriation of the sums granted by Parliament to meet the public expenditure. Since there is continued non-compliance, at the last meeting I suggested seeking the opinion of the Attorney General to find whether the Auditor General could file legal action on behalf the COPA against the official who fail to comply by deadlines given to them by the committee.

“We intend to give a deadline of one or two months and if the officials continue to ignore the committee recommendations they could be taken before the courts under the proposal that I have made,” Vitarana said.

Parliament should amend Standing Orders to give more teeth to the COPE and COPA, he added.



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Now, CEB plans to ‘rationalise’ tariff

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By Ifham Nizam

Plans are afoot to ‘rationalise’ the electricity tariff shortly, Ceylon Electricity Board Chairman M.M.C. Ferdinando said, adding that the 52-year-old system should be changed for the betterment of the electricity consumer.

CEB Chief told The Island the CEB tariffs need to be changed to better reflect the use and the income level of the consumer. Ferdinando added that he had already briefed President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on it.

Ferdinanado said that right now waste and corruption on CEB’s part had also been added to the consumers’ bill.

He said the CEB had received 1500 MT of fuel yesterday and would receive another shipment soon. However, thort-term power interruptions would continue in several areas until the operations at the Kelanitissa Power Station returns to normal.

“The power interruptions are an annoyance and we are looking for solutions. We too want to provide an uninterrupted power supply to our customers. Our hydro-power generation capacity is low as water levels in reservoirs are receding,” he said.

CEB’s Systems Control Department officials said that power outages might be experienced for one and a half hours due to problems at the Kelanitissa thermal plant complex.

CEB Media Spokesman, Additional General Manager Andrew Navamani said that the national grid had lost 282 MW due to the issues at Kelanitissa thermal plant. He said the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation had informed the CEB that necessary stocks of fuel for Kelanitissa power plant would be provided by yesterday night.

However, it would take several hours to start the generators, he said.

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Ranil calls on MPs to think anew to find solutions to problems engulfing country

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By Saman Indrajith

Traditional politics did not have solutions to problems and the MPs should think anew to find solutions, UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe told Parliament yesterday.

Participating in the adjournment debate on President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s policy statement, the UNP leader said: We have come to the end of politics. If we go by the words of Francis Fukuyama, it is a question of the end of politics. But that does not mean the end of parliament. We in parliament must think afresh. We must have the strength of finding a new way. We must discuss on bringing about long-term policies which could provide us with a new framework to find solutions for the problems of the people. Thereafter we can go for elections and ask people to decide who or which party could do better. Japan did so. Great Britain is doing so. India and Canada do the same. Why cannot we do it here? If we have common consensus here, we can plan to go for a new era. We must understand this reality.

“The President has commenced this new session at a time when the country is faced with the biggest economic and political crisis in 34 years. In his statement he mentioned only the foreign reserve crisis. The economic crisis we are facing is far more critical than that. We created a middle class with open economic policies. With the collapse of the open economy, the middle class too will collapse. There are a handful of companies and individuals who could earn profits while the entire economy is collapsing. We must decide whether we’ll perish or unite to work out a plan to survive,” Wickremesinghe said.

“We have come to the end of traditional politics. We may shout at each other and go out to shout slogans. None of them will be able to help us find solutions. The problems at hand cannot be solved without a policy framework and strong middle-term plan. What we are facing today is the end of traditional politics,” he said.

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Chandrika says Sirisena should be thrown out of SLFP

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Former President Maithripala Sirisena should be thrown out of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) for making it a junior partner of Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga said on Wednesday night after appearing before the Special Presidential Commission of Inquiry (SPCoI) appointed to implement the recommendations of the final report of the PCoI into alleged Political Victimisation.

Both Sirisena and former President Mahinda Rajapaksa had destroyed the SLFP, she alleged.

The former President said that she had urged Sirisena not to join the SLPP as that would mark the end of the SLFP.

“I repeatedly told him this and in response Sirisena removed me from the party’s Central Committee and stripped me of my organiser’s post.

Now, Sirisena is saying the same things I said about the SLPP. Even during the war, I managed to get the economy up and running. Look at it now, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry,” she said.

Bandaranaike was also critical of the SPCoI, stating that she had not been summoned before the PCoI on Political Victimisation for her to respond to any allegations against her.

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