Press statement

The Global Expert Group Meeting (EGM)on the Jakarta Principles co-hosted by the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption (CIABOC) in Sri Lanka, UNODC, and UNDP, Sri Lanka successfully concluded on 27 July 2018 in Colombo. The Expert Group Meeting was convened to develop a “Commentary on the Jakarta Statement on Principles for Anti-Corruption Agencies”. The Commentary, which will be known as the Colombo Commentary to the Jakarta Principles (COCO) will be finalized by the UNODC in the near future. It will provide guidance and clarity on the Jakarta Principles asrequested by state parties to the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) in order to strengthen the effectiveness and independence of national anti-corruption authorities.


Gracing the inauguration of the EGM as the chief guest, His Excellency, President Maithripala Sirisena, in his opening address, shared his vision of ensuring a corruption-free Sri Lanka, also emphasizing the desire to see Sri Lanka reaching the number-one spot in global anti-corruption rankings. His Excellency’s strong political will and the commitment to fight corruptionwere lauded by the international community in attendance at the inauguration. CIABOC also launched its’ pioneering Investigations Guidelines and Prosecution Manual developed for the instruction and guidance of the officers of the Commission, to an enthusiastic audience at the inauguration ceremony.

Present and former heads of anti-corruption agencies from over 30 countries, academics, practitioners, international anti-corruption experts, and civil society representatives engaged in vibrant discussions on ways and methods to ensure anti-corruption agencies are effective and independent during the meeting held in Colombo from 25-27 July 2018.

The delegates deliberated on all Sixteen(16) Jakarta Principles, the discussions providing some important insights for Sri Lanka to strengthen its anti-corruption regime. Jakarta Principles envision an anti-corruption regime with a clear and comprehensive mandate which includes not only investigations and prosecutions, but also prevention, education, awareness-raising, and coordination. International experience shows us that this could be achieved either through a single-agency or a multi-agency approach. However, it is essential for the implementing authority to have “the necessary independence” to effectively discharge their mandates without becoming vulnerable to politicization. It was repeatedly emphasized that the fight against corruption is not exclusively the role of the anti-corruption agency to play, but every sector has an active role in fighting corruption across the sectors.
Discussed asone of the most crucial factors in guaranteeing effectiveness and independence of anti-corruption authorities, financial autonomy over budgetary allocations for anti-corruption agencies was flagged as highly important. Financial autonomy is necessary because responding to corruption requires the implementation of targeted activities in a timely manner. Themeeting highlighted the importance of empowering these agencies to manage and control their financial allocations without relying on any other entity except the parliament for approval. Understandably, these will be subject to ‘appropriate accounting standards and auditing requirements’ as the agencies should be accountable and transparent.
To ensure anti-corruption agencies operate effectively, ‘authority over humanresources’ as well as ‘adequate and reliable resources’ should be at the disposal of anti-corruption bodies. The delegates all agreed on the importance of anti-corruption agencies being given the ‘power to recruit and dismiss their own staff according to internal clear and transparent procedures’ as well as having access to ‘timely, planned, reliable, and adequate resources’ to implement the mandate. Interestingly, it is now a globally accepted practice to allocate at least 0.1% of the national budget for anti-corruption activities and to guarantee this percentage by law. It was also agreed that anti-corruption agencies need highly competent and specialized staff and that it is absolutely necessary to hold that staff to higher standards of conduct than the ordinary public service.
The meeting also placed special emphasis on the importance of public communication and engagement to attract public confidence. Remarkably, it came to light that in some countries anti-corruption agencies have separate communications departments established within the agency to engage with the public and media, and agency officials undergo media training. Continuous public engagement was also recognized as critical for anti-corruption agencies in times of threat, as the public is often the saviour of institutions under political threat.
Delegates agreeing on the content of the Colombo Commentary on the Jakarta Principles, the EGM concluded on a triumphant note. The international visibility the EGM brought to Sri Lanka paves the way for many opportunities for Sri Lanka in general and CIABOC in particular to engage in anti-corruption activities in collaboration with international partners and engage in knowledge exchange with like-minded countries and organizations.

 

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