Thursday, December 12, 2013

Why are the budgets of so many Pradesheeya Sabha's being defeated?

Something strange seems to be going on in the Pradesheeya Sabhas. Many of them, despite having a majority seem unable to pass their budgets.

For a while I was wondering if there was some sort of conspiracy or some underground opposition activity that was manifesting itself. It sounds unlikely but was a possibility; given that the opposition members and some ruling party members seemed to be teaming up.

Had a chat with a friend about this and he was as mystified as I was. He said that the only common denominator was that in each body, it was a move by the members against the Chairman and sometimes the Vice-Chairman.

It was then that a little light bulb went on. Could this be a simple case of thieves falling out?

About seven or eight years ago a classmate of a friend was campaigning for a seat in a Pradesheeya Sabha. My friend was quite involved in the campaign lending his friend his car and helping out by other means. My friend mentioned to me that the target for the Chairman of a Pradesheeya Sabha to earn over a 5 year period of office was Rs.30m!

This sum was earned mainly by collecting bribes for the issue of building permits, authorising water and electricity connections and similar activities. It could not be earned in Colombo and the major towns because there was not much housing being built but in the suburbs where lots of housing schemes were coming up there was much opportunity.

From the point of view of the corrupt official, the Pradesheeya Sabha offers an added advantage: near invisibility. The local press, generally docile anyway, tend to ignore local Government issues as they are seen to be unimportant, which means no likelihood of embarrassment. The liklihood of punishment is rare anyway but occasional embarrassing exposures are sometimes possible.

Based on the limited knowledge that I have gathered over the past few years I believe the scale of bribery has expanded massively in the last 7-8 years, therefore the intensity of competition for political office has increased.

It is likely that once ensconced in office, the Pradeshheya Sabha Chairmen have been trying to keep all the loot to themselves and not share it out equally with other members, hence the reason for wanting to eject the Chairman by defeating the budget.

This is only a hypothesis, but does anyone else have any information to share?

Update 20th December

Met a friend yesterday who has to deal with the Pradesheeya Sabha's. He said that he had heard complaints before from members that the Chairman/vice chairman was not sharing the spoils. 

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