Dr. Chandana Jayalath Chartered Quantity Surveyor

The topicality of good governance has been accentuated since January elections 2015. It has been topical since bad governance is one of the root causes of all evils within our societies. For example, decisions of national importance had been taken in modalities such as ‘kitchen’ cabinets, monitoring MPs, and two three politically elevated bureaucrats.
There had been no public hearings at least for large scale projects where public money is spent. Information was not freely accessible to those who were actually affected by the enforcement of those decisions. Such informal way of decision-making finally led to corrupt practices resulting in agony, trauma and distrust amongst the masses. The up-rise of the government pressurizing the general public to tolerate impropriety and lax procurement culture aggravated malaise and large scale disarray.

Drawing constant media attention in the recent past, the issue of cost overruns cropped up in high waves alleging politicians and government officials. Contracts were awarded on unsolicited bids and contracts were strategically manipulated by what the politicians simply desired. Many organizations got entrapped in bad governance. While corruption is very difficult to pin-down mainly because the involved parties only deal with hard cash, the situation exacerbated to the level of a ‘technical’ cancer connected with the supply chain. The widespread perception was the appropriation of the state machinery by the elites to serve their own interests stood by the crisis of politicization.

A book titled Construction Steering along the Aphorism of Good Governance has been launched on August 8 at the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute, Colombo with a gathering of intellectuals, professionals and media men. It was written by Dr. Chandana Jayalath, a Chartered Quantity Surveyor, adjudicator and mediator. In this book, it seems that a considerable effort has been made in order to highlight the traits and fallacies attached with the issues of good governance in construction projects and contracts.

Ideally, the author’s background of quantity surveying seems to have a greater influence on the arguments cited in the book related to construction cost overrun, corruption and similar aspects. He has emphasized that one of the important aspects is the rule of law to be honoured that perpetually implies the scrupulous respect for the law at every level of government, transparent accounting of public monies and independent public auditors responsible to a representative legislature, not to an executive. He contends that effective legal remedies should be available in breach of a legal duty by a procuring entity, for example.

A couple of success stories have been added in the content of the book boosting a momentum to the discussion. Dr. Jayalath, condemns the politicians whose background is basically non-technical are uttering on cost overruns without scientific reasoning and remarks that the professionals specialized in the field of construction costing and valuations have been kept out of panorama, purposely or otherwise. More frustratingly, the general public has been impatiently waiting till the culprits if any are brought to justice and punished—a saga that is pathetic, painful and shameless.

Dr. Jayalath has shown throughout the book confidence and credence in revealing what, why and how he perceives good governance which he sturdily recommends indispensable for contracts, projects and people. Finally, he requests the readers to engage themselves actively in fostering good governance in national affairs without merely labelling it as a political slogan and ‘blow the whistle’ where it deems.

Irrespective of whatever political opponents may say, good governance is the one that can be positively associated with improved oversight in contracts, government effectiveness, efficient bureaucracy and rule of law leading to better economic performance. True good governance ensures that political, social and economic priorities are based on broad consensus in the society and more importantly, the voices of the people are heard in decision-making. Therefore, this book is recommendable for general readership because it apolitically examines the nexus, traits and fallacies the people struggle with in the quest for good governance including how well positioned we are in Sri Lanka to engage in the fight against fraud, corruption, inefficiencies and disarray in public affairs. The kernel of the discussion goes on with particular reference to the domestic construction industry and the solutions the Author suggests encompass a wide array of changes in the systems, people, processes, attitudes, law and order.

Written in form of short notes, the anthology covers why cost overrun, how corruption takes place, unjust enrichment, true sustainable development, civic engagement and public rights, just compensation for people affected due to development projects, empowering people and workforce, national role of construction steering, consensus building, mediatory efforts, role of professionals, watchdog role of media, and importantly the whistle blowing. A book on well-researched findings with over hundreds of captions and quotes is indeed rare.