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The Presidential Secretariat says it cannot provide information about the expenses incurred on behalf of the Presidential Commission.

There is no end to the frauds and corruptions in this country, as well as the commissions appointed to investigate them. But according to the decisions given by those commissions, there is a serious problem regarding the punishment of the accused as well as justice for the victims.

 In this way, the most famous commissions in recent times include the Presidential Commission appointed to investigate the bond fraud and the Presidential Commission appointed in connection with the Easter attack. But there has been strong criticism in the society that the authorities as well as the responsible political leaders have not worked to reveal the decisions given by these commissions in a proper manner.

  However, each of these commissions is maintained by the public money of the tax-paying people of this country, in that way, a lot of public money is spent on the commissions that are appointed to solve fraud, but the decisions given by them are not implemented properly. Just another waste of millions of tax dollars of the country’s people.

 In such a background, all the taxpaying people of this country have the right to know the information regarding the expenses incurred on behalf of those commissions, but the Presidential Secretariat has refused to provide that information.

  In this regard, it was revealed during an inquiry regarding the expenses incurred on behalf of the Presidential Commissions held on several occasions by the Presidential Secretariat in accordance with Section 3(1) of the Right to Information Act No. 12 of 2016.

Here, an information request form dated 20.02.2021 requesting information regarding the expenses incurred for the Easter Commission, and an information request form dated 2022.05.04 requesting information regarding the bond fraud as well as requesting information regarding the other appointed presidential commissions dated 2022.05.05 although several applications have been forwarded according to the Freedom of Information Act. The presidential secretariat has refused to provide information for the application forms.

There, according to the Information Officer of the Presidential Secretariat, there is an inability to provide that information as per Sections 5(1)(a) and 5(1)(h) of the Right to Information Act. Taking into consideration the matters mentioned in those sections, section 5(1)(a) provides that “in the case of information relating to personal information, the disclosure of the information has no relation to any public purpose or relationship or constitutes an unauthorized invasion of the privacy of an individual. If ,” as well as Section 5(1)(h) provides that “in case of serious prejudice to the prevention or detection of any crime or the apprehension or prosecution of the accused, or in a confidential source of information relating to law enforcement or national security. In case the identity is revealed, the information can be refused.

Also, according to an appeal made to the Sri Lanka Right to Information Commission in this regard, after the prior notice given by the Information Commission under No. A 3638/2021 dated 12.10.2021, the Presidential Secretariat in response to it has informed the Information Commission in a letter dated November 22, 2021. Information, as per Section 5(1)(b) of the Right to Information Act, the said information cannot be provided. The section states that the information cannot be provided “in cases where it is seriously prejudicial to the security of the State or its territorial integrity or national security”.

Also, the letter dated June 16, 2022, signed by Mr. Sisira Senadheera, the Information Officer of the Presidential Secretariat, in response to the information requests made on 05.05.2022 requesting information regarding the bond fraud and other presidential commissions that were established. It has been informed that the said information cannot be given as per Section 5(1)(h)(I) of the Right to Information Act.

It is a serious problem to provide information related to the money spent on the Easter Commission, Bond Commission, and other commissions, which are maintained by the tax money of the people of the country, for its investigations or judicial work, or as a threat to national security or an invasion of one’s privacy.

Also, in the absence of the presidential secretariat to provide information related to the expenses incurred on behalf of the Easter commissions, according to an appeal made to the information commissions in this regard, appeal hearings have been made at the information commission council on 01.06.2022 under the appeal number RTIC/Appeal/897/2021. But the officials of the Presidential Secretariat did not appear at the appeal hearing on that day and later the relevant public authority, the Presidential Secretariat, informed the Commission in a letter dated 30.05.2022 and refused to provide the information further.

Also, in the letter sent by the Presidential Secretariat, it has been informed that the information cannot be provided except by a court order. In a background where even the decisions given by these many commissions have been revealed by the media and publicized, the taxpaying citizens have the right to know the expenses incurred for the maintenance of those commissions, but why does the presidential secretariat not provide information about those expenses? is questionable.

Attempting to not provide information in this way by the highest government institution in the country is a serious challenge to the right to know the information of the citizens of this country, as well as a serious question arises regarding the diversity of the expenditures made for government affairs. Also, isn’t it a wrong precedent given by the Presidential Secretariat to other government institutions in the country?

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