While bribery and corruption are widely reported to be rampant in the country, the term of the Commission to investigate such allegations ends on Friday — amidst a battle over non-payment of salary arrears to commission members for more than four years and a dispute over fuel allowances.
The Sunday Times learns that the dispute has risen after the Commission’s Director General, Lakshmi Jayawardena, had refused to pay the three members of the commission their arrears and fuel allowances as approved by parliament in January last year.
Commission Chairman Ameer Ismail had sought advice from Attorney General Mohan Peiris regarding the refusal to pay the salary arrears and the AG had responded in April last year that the Commissioners were entitled to the increased salary in full from 2006.
Despite the AG’s advice the arrears were not paid and instead a further opinion had been sought from the Department of National Budget of the Finance Ministry.
The Sunday Times learns that the Department in a letter sent last week to the Director General of the Commission to Investigate Bribery or Corruption has said the arrears and the fuel allowances should be paid accordingly.
However, the Director General has informed the Chairman of the Commission that she was awaiting a further opinion from the AG regarding the calculation of the quantum of the arrears payable for 2006 and 2007.
The salaries of the Commissioners were increased by Parliament in January last year with retrospect effect from January 2006. The commission chairman’s monthly salary of Rs. 31,715 was increased to Rs. 66,000 and the salaries of the two other commissioners were increased from Rs. 29,815 to Rs 65,000.
The dispute over the salary arrears and fuel allowances has added to the woes of the Commission which has not been assigned a full time Police Investigating Director while its cadres of police officers is 80 less than the required number.
The post of Investigations Director fell vacant after Police Superintendent Neville Guruge retired in January last year. Three persons had been named for the post, but they were rejected by the Commission. One of them was an officer serving in Parliament.
The Commission, since coming into operation 1994, has remained ineffective for more than four years.
Meanwhile, Minister and cabinet spokesman G.L. Peiris said the appointment of new Commissioners was unlikely to be made until after the general elections.
With the fate of the 17th Amendment to the Constitution itself in question, the appointment of new commissioners to probe charges of bribery and corruption is likely to be deferred until the dispute over the 17th Amendment was sorted out, he said.
The delay in the reappointment of the commissioners would mean that even though complaints could be made, no raids could be carried out. Even Director General of the Commission cannot get fresh directives to initiate legal action or investigations.
Last year, the commission received 3,226 complaints and it carried out 136 raids, of which 62 were successful.