Sri Lanka’s anti-corruption commission must prioritize high-profile cases and move beyond petty infractions to regain public trust, Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL) said.

The Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption (CIABOC) now has broader powers under the Anti-Corruption Act, but faces mounting pressure to deliver results.

The public frustration stems from the deep-rooted corruption exposed during the 2022 Aragalaya protests, which many blame for the crippling economic crisis. Civil society and the IMF see tackling graft as crucial for economic recovery.

TISL urged CIABOC to:

Target high-profile corruption cases to encourage whistleblowers and witnesses.
Expedite public access to asset declarations to enhance transparency.
Proactively investigate major corruption cases beyond minor offences.
Expand its scope to tackle private-sector bribery and sports-related corruption.
Communicate its commitment and progress to the public.
“Considering the widespread corruption problem, TISL calls upon CIABOC to provide visionary leadership,” the statement said.

The group also urged the government to adequately resource CIABOC and grant it functional independence.

The full statement of the TISL is given below.

CIABOC Must Rise to Citizen Expectations in Fighting Corruption: TISL

The Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption (CIABOC), now wields increased powers under the Anti-Corruption Act (ACA). With Justice Neil Iddawala leading the three-member Commission that was recently appointed, there is a pressing need for robust action to combat systemic corruption.

The massive people’s struggle (Aragalaya) in 2022 highlighted the public’s realisation that deep-rooted corruption, coupled with governance weaknesses, caused the crippling economic crisis in Sri Lanka. There is a pervasive disillusionment and frustration regarding the State’s willingness to address these problems in good faith. Civil society and international donor agencies, particularly the International Monetary Fund (IMF), emphasize that genuine progress in anti-corruption efforts is crucial for the nation’s economic recovery. The IMF’s structural benchmarks for Sri Lanka, its Governance Diagnostic Assessment Report, and recommendations from the Civil Society Governance Diagnostic Report underscore the importance of empowering CIABOC.

Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL) stresses the urgency for CIABOC to regain public trust by targeting high-profile corruption cases, moving beyond minor infractions to pursue major offenders. Establishing accountability, especially in cases of grand corruption, will encourage whistleblowers and witnesses to come forward fearlessly.

To make strides, CIABOC must expedite public access to asset declarations, proactively investigate major corruption cases, and expand its scope to address private sector bribery and sports-related corruption, and communicate its commitment and progress, to the public.

Considering the magnitude of the widespread, systemic corruption problem in Sri Lanka, TISL calls upon the newly constituted Commission to provide visionary, fearless leadership to the fight against corruption. TISL also calls upon the Government to resource CIABOC with the financial and functional independence and support it needs to be responsive to this decisive moment in the country’s trajectory towards recovery.

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