Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL) yesterday called for prompt action on the findings and recommendations from the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) released on Tuesday.
“TISL believes that by exposing the weaknesses of public enterprises in the COPE Report 2013 and making recommendations on how improvements can be effected, the Parliamentary Committee on Public Enterprises has taken a positive step forward, and requests the President and the Government to follow up with further investigations and meaningful sanctions,” the anti-corruption watchdog said in a statement.
TISL endorses the view that for public enterprises to be effective, they must be held accountable for their performance. To hold them accountable it is necessary to have credible sanction mechanisms that punish wrongdoers and discourage unethical behaviour.
TISL requests the CID and the Bribery Commission to investigate deals like the National Saving Bank’s Rs. 390 million investment in The Finance, BOI approval of the Hyatt Regency investment and other irregular transactions.
TISL is also encouraged by the acceptance of its written recommendation that quarterly reports of the COPE proceedings should be released for the public to be aware of issues which need immediate attention.
TISL strongly believes that the President should give serious consideration to the need for enhancing the quality of leadership of the public enterprises through the appointment of professional, experienced and skilled personnel as recommended by COPE in its report. They should be made fully answerable and accountable for their performance. This can be ensured by the maximum degree of autonomy and minimum degree of interference from above.
The responsibility for acting on the COPE report falls primarily on Parliament itself, which should, in particular, pay attention to the revelation made by COPE that 98% of the loss in public enterprises is borne by four State companies. The Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB), Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC), national carrier SriLankan Airlines and Mihin Lanka have been running at massive losses since 2011, the COPE report found.
The lack of transparency and accountability has combined to create the most visible finding of the COPE report that a significant number of public enterprises are performing at a loss. The report revealed that 16 out of 72 ventures are loss making. Although public enterprises report directly to the relevant ministries, Parliament has the authority to order further investigations and compel public enterprises to act sensibly. TISL hopes that Parliament will act in accordance with COPE recommendations to revamp these institutions.
As recommended by COPE to take immediate action to raise salaries and other remuneration of high ranking posts “to avoid any possible collapse of the public sector”, TISL is of the view that the Treasury will take immediate action in this regard.
Meanwhile, TISL requests the media to take the initiative to report on issues of extreme mismanagement and corruption reported in the COPE report until meaningful action is taken to hold these enterprises accountable. The President should heed to the request made by COPE Chairman, Senior Minister D.E.W. Gunasekara, that the Executive should take suitable action on the findings and recommendations.