Chairman of Transparency International`s Sri Lanka Chapter, M. D. A. Harold said that demanding a intimacyual favour is an offence punishable under the Bribery Act. Making a presentation, at a workshop held at Intercontinental Hotel on Tuesday, he emphasised that bribery is not confined to payment in money.
`Bribery is the payment -- in money or kind -- that is given or taken in a corrupt relationship,` he said. `To pay or to receive a bribe is corruption.`
Chairman of the Permanent Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption (PCIABC) Ameer Ismail revealed the arrest of a security officer attached to the National Housing Development Authority (NHDA) on a similar charge.
According to the retired Supreme Court Judge, the arrest had been made at Elvitigala flats where the officer met a lady security officer of the same organisation who sought his assistance to secure a transfer.
According to Harold, since 2003 the level of corruption in Sri Lanka increased steadily with Transparency International`s Global Corruption Report recording a significant deterioration in the situation.
Bribery, misuse of public property, fraud, extortion and nepotism are the main forms of corruption, he said, categorising nepotism and cronyism, large scale rackets and small value bribery transactions as the three types of corruption.
Replying to a query raised by The Island, Harold admitted that there had been an inordinate delay in initiating the ongoing probe on a massive racket involving a group of corrupt businessmen and senior Inland Revenue
Department officials. Harold said that it was an inexcusable fault on the part of the authorities. The Rs. 3.7 billion VAT fraud is believed to be the biggest ever racket detected by the Auditor General`s Department. `Once the AG finalised a report, action should have been taken immediately,` he said. He emphasised the importance of a tangible mechanism to ensure a prompt investigation.
He blamed the parliamentary committees on public enterprises and finance for not giving the required attention to the sharp decline in standards. According to him the committees had not met since the presidential polls in November. He called for far-reaching changes to the existing system while emphasising the need to allow public hearings. `The public have a right to know,` he said. He emphasised the importance of the early implementation of the Freedom of Information Act.
Categorising political influence, economic reasons, poor law enforcement, social aspects and faulty systems as the main causes for corruption, he said discretionary powers, unqualified persons holding high posts and politics being some of the major reasons for the crisis. He expressed belief that the situation has been worsened by persons entering politics purely to make money.
Replying to a query by The Island, Harold admitted that the private sector, NGOs and even the press should not be spared. `There should be no exceptions,` he said.
Claiming that the country`s integrity systems were weak, Harold blamed the legislature, executive, judiciary, Auditor General, Ombudsman, Public Service, private sector and media.
He called for urgent measures to strengthen the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption and the Auditor General`s Department while underscoring the urgent need to establish a National-level independent anti-corruption Agency.