Corruption probe comes a cropper for want of cops

Monday, 15 June 2015 00:03 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


By Shanika Sriyananda

The first round of a public hearing conducted by the Special Presidential Commission, which will investigate alleged large-scale corruption and financial fraud at government institutions, will be delayed further due to a dearth of police investigators available to probe the allegations.

Secretary of the Commission, Lacille de Silva, said the body needed a team of 30 police investigators to probe over 600 complaints but it only had 10 police officers.

“There is a slight delay in commencing a public hearing as the commission is still waiting to receive another set of police officers to conduct the investigations. We have a team of 10 police officers headed by an Assistant Superintendent of Police but this number needs to be increased to 30 police officers to have a very efficient process,” he said.

He added that the commission needed to get the assistance of highly competent police investigators to scrutinise serious allegations of corruption and financial fraud.

“We have already requested the IGP to send another 20 police investigators to handle the rest of the complaints. The Department of Police has already begun the interviews to select competent officers. 

When the officers are selected by the Police, the commission will also interview them again to check their competency in handling these serious allegations,” De Silva told Daily FT.

Meanwhile, the police investigation team headed by Assistant Superintendent of Police L.P.M Abeysekara, comprises three chief inspectors G.P. Bodipakasa, R.P.R. Rajapaksa and E.A.L.M Egodawatte, an SI, P.T Gunaratne, and a few other sergeants, who have already begun their preliminary investigations.

However, De Silva said that the commission was hopeful that it would get the remaining officers next week.

Several Ministry Secretaries and Heads of Departments will be grilled during the first round of a public hearing at a special court set up at the BMICH.

These top officials will be questioned to find out their alleged involvement in large-scale corruption and financial misappropriation at state institutions during the rule of the previous Rajapaksa administration.

“Once we get them we will expedite the investigations and will soon begin the public hearing at the special court,” he said.

The Secretary of the Commission confirmed that there were several secretaries to ministries on the list who would be questioned by a five-member commission.

“Not only ministry secretaries and heads of departments but several chairmen of boards and corporations and Government-owned business undertakings, divisional secretaries and even Grama Seva Niladaries will be grilled to find out their involvement in alleged corruption and fraud,” he said.

Out of 600 petitions, the commission has selected 50 complaints for the first round of investigations.

The commission was established following President Maithripala Sirisena’s election pledge to take legal actions against those who had engaged in large-scale corruption at state institutions.

These top state officials will testify before a bench of four High Court judges – Chairman Preethi Padman Surasena, Amandra Seneviratne, Vikum Kaluarachchi and Gihan Kulathunga - and the retired Auditor General A.P. Prematilake.

The police investigators based at the BMICH have been provided with necessary facilities to carry out their investigations independently.

 “The Commission is absolutely independent and no political authority can influence us in our investigations,” De Silva stressed, adding that the prime responsibility of the commission was to bring wrongdoers before the law.

He said that the commission instituted a tough selection process for the investigators as they were required to be highly competent in handling serious cases of corruption and financial fraud.

Police spokesman SP Ruwan Gunasekara said that the IGP would name the list of investigators soon.  

“We need to select the best police investigators to investigate these serious corruption allegations. We will be able to release these highly competent officers to the commission next week,” he said.