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Combatting corruption in Sri Lanka's infrastructure sector

Bridging gaps for sustainable procurement


In a recent research brief titled "Backwards in Blacklisting: Gaps in Sri Lanka’s Procurement Framework Enable Corruption," PublicFinance.lk, an initiative by Verité Research, unveiled critical shortcomings in Sri Lanka's procurement framework, especially within the infrastructure sector. This article delves into the findings, emphasizing the urgency of reforms for sustainable and corruption-free procurement practices.


Importance of addressing corruption


Corruption in public procurement not only jeopardizes fair competition but also inflates contract prices, leading to the misuse of precious public resources. The research underscores the crucial role of blacklisting – a tool designed to deter fraud and corruption by barring guilty firms from government procurement. The aim is clear: to prevent wrongdoing and safeguard public funds and investments.


Identifying critical gaps


The research brief on the absence of blacklisting in public procurement identifies two pivotal gaps hindering the effectiveness of blacklisting in Sri Lanka's infrastructure projects. Firstly, there's a legal gap: the existing guidelines fail to include fraud and corruption as valid reasons for blacklisting contractors. While provisions exist for defaulting on contracts, corrupt practices are not explicitly addressed.


Secondly, a compliance gap surfaces, revealing a failure to implement existing regulations. Even with provisions for blacklisting the defaulting contractors, government agencies fall short in adhering to these rules due to non-compliance. The online database, initiated in 2020, includes a meager two entries, indicating a lack of enforcement and accountability.


Sri Lanka's comparative lagging


Sri Lanka stands as a backward outlier in the South Asian region, particularly compared to countries like Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, and India. These nations recognize engaging in fraudulent and corrupt practices as valid grounds for blacklisting, coupled with functional online databases. Sri Lanka, in contrast, is yet to implement these essential anti-corruption measures comprehensively.


The urgent call for reforms


Addressing corruption in the infrastructure sector is pivotal, especially in the wake of an economic crisis exacerbated by corruption. Urgent reforms are needed to close the identified gaps – both in the legal framework and compliance. The article recommends amending legislation to explicitly include fraud and corruption as reasons for blacklisting. Simultaneously, it stresses the importance of effective implementation, advocating for a regularly updated online database of blacklisted firms accessible to the public.


With corruption posing a formidable threat to Sri Lanka's economic stability, bridging the gaps in the procurement framework becomes imperative. This article echoes the urgent call for reforms, emphasizing the need for transparency, accountability, and a robust anti-corruption stance in the country's infrastructure procurement. By closing these identified gaps, Sri Lanka can forge a path toward sustainable development, safeguarding public resources and instilling confidence in its infrastructure projects.


This article was compiled using the research conducted by Verite Research on Backwards in Blacklisting: Gaps in Sri Lanka's Procurement Framework Enable Corruption (publicfinance.lk) and the following articles:

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