TISL writes to the political leadership
TISL writes to the political leadership to ensure transparency and accountability on the draft Reconstruction and Development Authority Bill, that will handle all future disaster related reconstructions.
1. Mr. Mahinda Rajapakse,
His Excellency the President
2. Mr. Ratnasiri Wickramanayaka, MP,
3. Mr. Ranil Wickramasinge, MP
Leader of the Opposition
Your Excellency/Hon Sirs
Re: Draft Bill on Reconstruction and Development Authority (RADA)
We submit this urgent memorandum on the above with a view to ensuring transparency and accountability in the proposed legislation. Having examined the Bill, as it stands, we have found several major issues that need to be addressed seriously without further delay. The issues and our suggestions are listed below:
1. The composition of RADA is the single most issue warranting serious consideration. The President appoints all except ex officio members to RADA. These provisions are no different from other public corporations where all directors are appointed on political considerations. Incorporating professional qualifications as the criterion has not prevented politicization of corporations and even regulatory bodies in Sri Lanka. A national body that will be engaged in national level building exercises should be guarded against politicization at the highest level. We propose that the members of RADA should be appointed for a term of 7 years by the President upon the recommendation of the Constitutional Council.
2. The draft Bill does not guarantee transparency of any of the activities of RADA including its expenditure and distribution of benefits and relief to the recipients. In regard of the vast amounts of money/aid that is to be handled by RADA, it is desirable to incorporate a provision requiring RADA to issue all information to the public that are not required to be withheld in the interest of national security.
3. We note that like any other public institution, RADA is subject to auditing. Having regard to the nature of its activities, we suggest that specific provisions be introduced to ensure transparent and participatory auditing of accountability in relation to the areas of Tsunami, Conflict, Poverty and Economic Growth. Such activity could be encouraged in the statutory scheme, while making provisions to affect compulsory Post Implementation Reviews / Qualitative Impact Assessments/ Value for Money studies on the entirety or project based activities, of RADA. If this cannot be stipulated in the statute itself, it could be achieved through the regulation making power in the statute.
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4. The Draft has not provided for sufficient provisions to hold RADA accountable to any authority or to Parliament effectively. According to the present legal regime, the President is not accountable at all and therefore national level building under the scheme contemplated in the RADA Bill will be a political exercise with a political agenda, unless specific safeguards are given to ensure effective accountability to the Parliament.
5. TISL agrees with the concept of a single national body that is capable of effectively addressing the issues subsequent to a disaster. However such national body should mandatorily consult the devolutionary units (such as Provincial Councils) for reconstruction and development of affected areas. Civil society and private sector should also have a voice in the decision making process of the national body. The Public should also have an opportunity to engage in such an exercise. TISL hopes that the Bill will also take the issues related to the conflict in the North and East of the country into consideration in the entire exercise, with a view to being more inclusive.
6. The powers of RADA extends to monitoring and controlling the activities of any Non Governmental Organization or local private sector organization engaged in reconstruction or development activity within any designated area, by issuing licenses for carrying out the activities intended by them and by prescribing such other regulatory measures as may be required. Thus the possibility of RADA becoming an authority to control Non Governmental Organizations and private sector entities for ulterior motives cannot be ruled out. Therefore, TISL suggests that this power be removed or limited by specific restrictions bearing in mind the Constitutional rights of associations and lawful businesses. Having regard to the present structure of RADA, it would be more desirable not to confer this power on it.
7. There is lack of clarity in relation to the issue whether the powers of several other Ministries and Authorities are being transferred to or made subordinate to the authority of RADA. If it is so transferred or subjugated, we suggest that the boundaries of such powers be clearly demarcated.
We further request that this Bill should not be introduced as an Urgent Bill depriving a public debate on the topic.
We urge that these suggestions be considered seriously if this Bill is to be introduced.
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