USAID Supports Anti-Corruption Plan

Under the aegis of the U.S. Agency for Development (USAID) Anti-Corruption Program (ACP), members of the ACP Consultative Council presented a draft National Action Plan against corruption at a national conference attended by more than 200 community activists from across all of Sri Lanka.

The draft Action Plan was developed with input from a series of regional workshops in 17 districts conducted for the ACP by the Center for Policy Alternatives (CPA), Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL), Janawaboda Kendraya, and Lawyers for Human Rights and Development.

Following discussion and refinement of the plan at a two-day session at the Bandaranaike Memorial Conference Hall, the organizers will finalize a document that addresses the practical manifestations of corruption and methods of mitigating corruption in the short, medium, and long terms. This final plan will be presented to representatives of Government and Parliament at the end of July.

“All of us are touched in some way by corruption,” USAID Mission Director Rebecca Cohn said at the workshops. “Corruption undermines good government, impedes economic growth and development, and unfairly targets the most vulnerable members of society. It erodes the trust of citizens in their government.”

Ms. Cohn said the role of USAID is supportive, and encourages sincere cooperation among community activists, media, the private sector, and other champions of integrity to stand together and galvanize concrete action against the climate of corruption.

“What is most important about our initiative and endeavors today is that right now and down the decades we have talked about corruption and about how it’s important to root it out and to do something about it,” said CPA Executive Director Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu,” “but very few initiatives have really sat down and addressed exactly what corruption actually means in its practical context, how it should be defined and understood so as better to be able to prevent and combat it.”

Dr. Sarvanamuttu said the chief attraction of the new plan is that, “it thinks in practical, achievable outcomes.” Still, he said, no plan to combat corruption will ever be sufficient in terms of ensuring the success of these endeavors if there isn’t an actively nurtured culture of anticorruption in Sri Lanka.

“A lot of the corruption in Sri Lanka happens in the public realm – and perhaps in the private realm too, and [we Sri Lankans] are in some ways complicit in that corruption, because we think it is an easier, more convenient, or quicker way of doing things,” he said. “All these things will not in the end work unless they are accompanied by a culture of anticorruption that gives the full enterprise life, vision, energy, and dynamism. Otherwise we are not going to succeed.”

The Action Plan identifies priority actions to be taken by various constituencies including government, the private sector, civil society, media, and the donor community to reduce corruption and enhance integrity in Sri Lanka. It focuses on specific, measurable and realistic actions; and includes time-bound output measures that will permit monitoring of achievements. This structure will enable periodic review and evaluation of successes achieved, and updates of the actions in future years.

The USAID program, implemented by US-based ARD, Inc, has introduced new methods and techniques of investigative auditing at the Auditor General’s Department. The program, which will be turned over to TISL and other local organizations in October, has also conducted a successful media campaign against corruption.

[Source: US Embassy News, Colombo, Sri Lanka]

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