Demand for government sector jobs in Sri Lanka is very high. The process of securing a position at a state organization thus is a very competitive one. In the early 1990s, then President Ranasinghe Premadasa introduced a new criterion for selecting entrants to the state sector which is through a competitive examination. Even though the system was to make the entrance process more transparent and weed out any corruption in the system, allegations that there is rigging and favorite in the process has been rife, and that too, not without a valid ground.
But the Right to Information (RTI) Act introduced in 2016 is giving hope to those who feel they are being treated unfairly. The new law has become a tool for many prospective state sector job applicants to ensure those recruited are done so on merit and not favoritism.
a recent case where the RTI was used involves a young woman who had applied for a post in the Excise Department.
Vinu* of Badulla, Hapuwatta, applied for a position advertised by Sri Lanka Excise Department on 22 August 2014. The vacancy was published in the Gazette Number 1877. She was called upon to sit for the competitive examination on 01st August 2015 conducted by the Finance Ministry under the number 41800.
The applicant obtained 150 marks with the rank of 122. After passing the examination she attended the interview conducted by Sri Lanka Excise Department (Colombo) on 01st March 2016. But that was the last she heard about her application and she was not informed by the Department about the results of her interview.
She learnt about the Right to Information Act by a workshop conducted by Sri Lanka Press Institute with the financial support from the USAID- SDGAP program activity.
Vinu was keen to secure the job and sought resource in the RTI law by submitting, not one, but two applications to the Information Officer at the Excise Department under the Right to Information Act No: 12 of 2016. She has sent her applications in November 2018. Vinu has received two contradictory reply letters.
when the two letters are compared it is clear there is a problem. When a copy of the letter sent to Sri Lanka Excise Department was sent to the Ministry of Finance and Mass Media, the Ministry has sent a letter to the Excise Department asking that she be provided with the necessary information and a copy of that letter has been sent to her.
As of now, Vinu has not received a reply and she does not wish to proceed with an appeal.
Vinu*says though she did not secure the job now at least she knows that a discrepancy has occurred. She says if not for RTI she would have to go after many officials and even might have had to face some maltreatment by them. But because of the Act, she was confident to ask. Vinu says she would help people who have faced the same fate as hers on how to use RTI.
*Identity has been changed.
This update was prepared by participants of the Information and Communication Training Workshop conducted by the Sri Lanka Press Institute (SLPI) through a grant funded by the United States Agency for International Development through the Strengthening Democratic Governance and Accountability Project Activity.
“The contents of this post are the sole responsibility of SLPI and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.”