The lack of transparency and inconsistent procedure in selecting officials for key government posts by the Parliamentary High Posts Committee, has led to an increase in corruption and the politicisation of appointments, a leading civil society organisation has charged.
According to Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL), the High Posts Committee, which is appointed to scrutinise the suitability of officials nominated for high-ranking government positions, functions behind closed doors and the public has no access to the sessions or the findings of the committee. A study conducted by TISL reveals that separate reports on the examinations conducted by the committee have never been tabled in Parliament.
Such secrecy and inconsistency has resulted in an increase of corruption in the appointment of Ambassadors, Secretaries to Ministries, Heads of Government Corporations, Chairpersons of Boards of State Institutions and other Advisors and Consultants to Ministries, TISL said. ?The High Posts Committee unfortunately doesn`t have a sense of public importance. It sits in private and passes laws and there is no thorough scrutiny done?, Executive Director of TISL, J.C Weliamuna said at a recent public discussion on curtailing political appointments.
The TISL report on key high posts, revealed that there has been only one rejection of an appointment to a high post by the previous Parliamentary Committee. However, this was about ten-years back and even in this case, the President chose not to act on the Committee recommendation and the nominee was chosen.
This state of affairs points to a severe lack of legislative response to curtailing such political appointments, TISL said. Parliament has made no attempts to pass laws to arrest and address the situation and there are no guiding principles and laws in the selection of persons, Mr. Weliamuna said. ?In a few places there are guidelines but these too are circumvented?, he said.
The Standing Orders of Parliament, state that the High Posts Committee must examine the suitability of persons nominated to hold certain high positions as decided by the Cabinet and make recommendations in this regard. The Committee has the power to summon persons and witnesses and call for documents and is the only Committee that could continue, even if Parliament is prorogued.
The current Parliamentary High Posts Committee is chaired by senior Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake and includes Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse and Ministers Anura Bandaranaike, D.M Jayaratne, Nimal Siripala de Silva, Jeyeraj Fernandopulle, Dinesh Gunewardane, Mangala Samaraweera, John Seneviratne Ferial Ashraff, A.H.M Fowzie. UNP Deputy Leader, Karu Jayasuriya, K.N Choksy, G.L Peiris, Mahinda Samarasinghe and Joseph Michael Perera who are also members. The remaining members are, MPs S. Amarasinghe, P. Chandrasekeran, Arumugam Thondaman, P. Dayaratne, G.G Ponnambalam, M.H Mohamed, Bimal Ratnayake, M.K Sivalingam, R. Sampanthan, Ven Omalpe Sobitha Thera and Rauf Hakeem.