Quest to eliminate bribery and corruption
CRACKDOWN ON BRIBERY: Director Investigations of the Commission to
Allegations of Bribery or Corruption, Neville Guruge outlines his plans
to minimise bribery and corruption in the country to Daily News staffer
What is your mandate as the Director Investigations of the
Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery and Corruption?
I am a Senior Superintendent of Police and have served the Police
Dept. for 31 years. I can serve the general public who are suffering,
who are being victimised over the high cost of living. Misusing of
public funds by politicians and corruption is taking place in every nook
When the public go to a Government office to get their work done for
instance getting a driving licence etc, the Government servants solicit
bribery. It's the general public who suffer and I'm in the right place
now to eliminate corruption and bribery. My target is to make the
country free of bribery and corruption. My aim is not to punish them but
In which sectors do you find bribery and corruption?
Both sectors are corrupt but it is mostly the public sector. The
private sector is also corrupt to a certain level, unfortunately we
don't have authority to investigate the private sector. We are empowered
to investigate only the Government institutions. There's corruption in
both sectors and the public are affected.
What are your major strategies for netting the culprits?
Our operations are mainly targeted on bribery. We have to act fast on
bribery matters because the bribe giver can act faster than us.
According to our Commission's Act we need to have complaints to initiate
investigations, we must have them in writing.
In bribery matters we get information over the telephone. To
investigate these matters we have to get the approval of the Commission.
Postal complaints should be sanctioned by the Commission. In the past we
used to get many complaints through the phone.
At present the complaints receiving have reduced due to the awareness
programme. The public and Government servants are afraid of giving and
taking bribes. The media plays a big role to give the message to the
general public. The media assists us to implement the awareness
How does the Government support your activities?
We need more assistance from the Government. The assistance we
receive from the Government now is reasonable. For example the
investigation division cadres numbered 103. I requested the Commission
and the Commission provided upto 180 cadres to the investigations
division under the approval of the Treasury.
However, the facilities we have are limited. All my officers cannot
be accommodated in the office as office space is limited. My
investigators are from Colombo and suburbs. They are all residing in
If we have lodging for the investigators, we can employ investigators
from around the country. We receive complaints from all parts of the
country and due to lack of the investigators we cannot handle them all.
This is time to decentralize the commission to have branches around
the country. I think we should have at least three branches in Galle or
Matara, Kandy and Anuradhapura. It is easy and effective.
When I receive complaints from areas outside Colombo, I have to send
investigation teams and they have to move fast.
send them faster we need fast vehicles. Most of the things are
happening with modern technology and we are not equipped with the new
technology. We have received some equipment from the UNDP and have
requested more new equipment.
How do the operations take place?
All the investigations are conducted under my supervision. I initiate
the investigations with the approval of the Commission. I get the
complaints and I detail the team.
What are your plans to overcome bribery and corruption?
Usually we are acting positively against bribery and corruption. I
have a police team to investigate criminal matters. They have gained
experience at their training schools. They need more training and we are
trying to provide them with enough training. The UNDP is conducting some
training programmes for the investigation team. Their knowledge of the
English language should be enhanced.
I have requested the UNDP through the commission to conduct an
English class. I think the investigation team is able to handle the
matters. We also need some experts like engineers and quantity
surveyors. There are many acts of corruption in this field. We are
depending on the other departments to solve such acts of corruption and
we are not working independently.
We are planing to recruit some experts. When we have to depend on the
other departments, the bribe givers offer them bribes. I also suggested
offering an independence investigations team to the Commission which
acts directly with the commission but not from the police. Besides, we
need more technical assistants to work along with the new technology.
The technical section should be strengthened.
We should have foreign exposures for our investigators. They should
go abroad and learn the tactics used in the investigation process and
exchange their experience with counterparts from other countries. We
recruited some legal officers to advise on the legal aspects of the
investigation process. They have been trained on prosecution.
How far have you succeeded in tackling bribery and corruption?
The present Commission is active and Commissioners are always
available at the office. They direct us to investigations. Therefore the
public know that the Bribery Commission is working and it is effective.
Still I feel it's inadequate and we have to act more and use more
techniques to tackle the criminals. We have to be alert to eradicate
this menace. In 2005 we conducted 142 raids and 62 of them were
successful. We have arrested 82 Government servants.
In open investigations we have arrested nine Government servants and
on asset investigations we have arrested four Government servants
including one former minister and one Director Customs. In 2006 we
conducted 96 raids, out of which 37 were successful. We have arrested 48
How do you compare Sri Lanka with other countries vis-a-vis
bribery and corruption?
The developed countries educate their future generation to combat
bribery and corruption. They teach about bribery and corruption at
It starts from primary level and continues until they graduate from
their school. The ICAC (Investigation Commission Against Corruption) in
Hong Kong has a training course for teachers to combat corruption. In
contrast, in Sri Lanka children are taught to be corrupt from their
school life. They get the first lessons in corruption and bribery as
parents are bribing principals to get their children admitted to popular
The teachers are being bribed by their parents to get high marks for
children, a place in the first row, to become a prefect, to be a member
of sports team and so on.
The parents give bribes through the children and they grow up with
it. It is dangerous and completely ridiculous. I blame the parents and
teachers for this situation.
Do you think that legal action meted out to the convicts in the
bribery cases is sufficient?
The conviction percentage is very low these days. The punishment must
be enhanced. And we must have severe punishment.
Do you come across any political interference?
So far there is no political interference and no one contacts me. We
are free to investigate and we are doing it independently.