Peace for the World

Peace for the World
First democratic leader of Justice the Godfather of the Sri Lankan Tamil Struggle: Honourable Samuel James Veluppillai Chelvanayakam

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Rationalize vehicle purchase for politicians

By Bernard Fernando-2017-07-11

According to news reports, the President has suspended the recent supplementary estimate for purchase of vehicles for politicians, apparently to rectify the bad timing of the proposal in the face of the flood catastrophe. If it is only a postponement of the issue, we urge the policymakers to make use of the recess to install a transparent and an effective mechanism to rationalize the purchase and use of vehicles for politicians and government officials in the long run.

The writer in his previous submissions has repeatedly drawn the attention of the authorities, that with the advent of the decentralized Provincial Councils and Pradeshiya Sabhas in 1987, the role and responsibilities of the central government MPs should have been redefined in order to make them only 'law-makers' or 'legislators' confined to the centre. Therefore, effective steps should be taken at least now to clearly redefine job roles of the Parliamentarians, Provincial Councillors and Local Government members. Also, use of pool vehicles in the ministries should be maximized to cater to demands from Parliamentarians. The measures will no doubt reduce the official travel of Parliamentarians to the periphery using luxury vehicles.

seemingly lukewarm role

It is pertinent to mention that the absence of clearly defined roles was quite evident in the recent school re-opening mess-up as well as in the seemingly lukewarm role played by the provincial and local government politicians during the flood disaster. The media culture on the other hand too needs to be changed to shift the limelight from Parliamentarians to their peripheral counterparts so that the public can assess and justify the presence and effectiveness of politicians in the periphery.

Also, it is an accepted fact that the wasteful 'Preference Voting system' has acted as an obstacle to implementing an effective decentralized political administration system as Parliamentarians are compelled to travel to their constituencies regularly to safeguard their preference votes. Therefore, it needs to be abolished with the forthcoming electoral reforms. Being an optional system, why can't it be repealed by a simple amendment to the relevant laws? However, it should not be re-installed in the guise of a 'mixed-voting' system applicable to general and PC elections where again the candidates would be compelled to canvass for votes under a 'first-past-the post' system thereby reinventing the wheels of violence, bribery and corruption.

I now take the liberty to enlist below, a few direct measures to rationalize vehicle use by politicians and government officials.

All official vehicles should be inventoried under the respective ministries and departments and fuel and maintenance will be their responsibility.

Vehicle purchases (except ceremonial) should be purpose driven and not luxurious.

All officers including politicians should apply for the use of vehicles through vehicle application forms providing details of official purpose, route to destination and return, time of departure and arrival to prevent abuse. Fuel usage registers should be properly maintained. Even if a system is already in place it doesn't appear to be robustly adopted, judging from the files before the Financial Crimes Investigation Division (FCID). Although every rule has an exception, in Sri Lanka exception seems to be the rule.

For private travel they should use the vehicle given to them on duty free basis or concessionary terms.

Discarding of vehicles should be handled by an independent, technical committee. Looking at the scores of so-called condemned vehicles in the backyards of ministries and departments we cannot surmise that such committees are in place.

Regular vehicle auctions should be held to dispose of used vehicles so that idle assets can be minimized.

Productive political machinery

We are still hopeful that only a government committed to good governance can rationalize and institute a cost effective and productive political machinery in Sri Lanka and accelerate the developmental process of the country.

We urge the civil society and concerned organizations to guide the Yahapalana government on the correct path.