Bribery and corruption among public officials is rapidly increasing but the number of convictions is low, largely because complainants are afraid to come forward as witnesses, a top official said yesterday.
Piyasena Ranasinghe Director General of the Commission to Investigate Bribery or Corruption told the Daily Mirror that from January 1 to March 10 this year, more than 20 complaints had been received against top public officials.
He said those under investigation included the Mayor and Deputy Mayor of Negombo, OIC of the Bibile police station, and top officials of the police, Education Ministry, Department of Emigration and Immigration and the Department of the Registrar of Motor Traffic.
The Commission this week handed over its latest report to President Mahinda Rajapaksa pointing out that the number of public officials being arrested for bribery or corruption was steadily increasing.
The report says 90 public officials had been arrested on charges of bribery or corruption within the period in question.
Mr. Ranasinghe said it was tragic that officers of the police department topped the list of bribery and corruption.
He said another unfortunate trend was that while people were ready to make complaints of bribery or corruption they were not so ready to come forward as witnesses and thus the number of convictions was low, though the law was tough.
He said new laws relating to the freedom of information and to protect complainants or witnesses needed to be introduced.
Mr. Ranasinghe denied allegations that the Commission was largely taking in the ‘sprats’ and letting go the ‘sharks’.
He said in recent years or months many top security personnel, principals of schools and a top railway official had been arrested on charges of bribery and corruption.
Mr. Ranasinghe said in most instances the Commission was only able to neutralise the damage from worsening further.