Feb 15, Colombo: Prof. Charitha Herath, Chairman of the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) at its meeting held on the February 12th instructed the relevant authorities of the National Child Protection Authority (NCPA) under the Ministry of Education to expedite the implementation of a national policy which is the primary responsibility of the Authority.
The COPE committee disclosed that the National Child Protection Authority was established in 1998 with the objective of formulating a national policy on the prevention of child abuse and for the protection and for the purpose of treating children who are victims of such abuse, Parliament Media Unit said.
However, the committee pointed out that the implementation of a national policy has not been carried out accordingly paving way for a delay of 21 years. The Committee emphasized the importance of expediting the implementation of the National Policy which has been already approved.
Members of Parliament Jagath Pushpakumara, Eran Wickramaratne, Premnath C. Dolawaththa, Shanakiyan Rasamanickam and officials representing the Child Protection Authority were present at the occasion.
It was also brought to the committees’ attention that annual reports of the Authority for the years 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 have not been submitted to Parliament so far. Expressing displeasure over the matter, the COPE Chairman instructed the Secretary to the Ministry of Education and the Secretary to the Ministry of State to immediately look into the matter and submit the relevant annual reports to Parliament within two months.
It was revealed that Rs. 9 million for consultants for the purpose of creating a database for the Authority has been spent in the years 2016, 2017 and that a grant of Rs. 1.2 million has also been provided by the Department of Computer Studies, University of Colombo in order to develop a software which is has come to a state of being futile. The COPE committee emphasized that although it is important to prepare such a database, there should be a proper methodology in the use of government funds. Thus, the Committee instructed the Secretary to the Ministry to immediately conduct an internal investigation and submit a report on the aforesaid matter.
Although a legal framework and regulations had been identified to regulate the transportation of school children as a measure to prevent child abuse, the COPE committee pointed out that it had not yet been implemented thus far. The Chairman of the Authority said that the requisite standards have been prepared pertaining to the matter and that the authority should take action to fill the vacancies for regulatory purposes. The Committee instructed to expedite this program by employing the newly appointed graduates according based on their qualifications.
The committee also raised concerns over the difficulties faced by the victims as a result of time-consuming process of child abuse cases. Emphasis was placed on the importance of developing a system to minimize the time period affiliated to child abuse cases before children reach the phase of adulthood.
It was revealed that although 3165 school child protection committees have been set up to prevent child abuse, only 2392 committees are active at present. The committee recommended that this should be revived with a more attractive approach in order to popularize it among school children and that it should be included in the institution's active program schedule accordingly.
It was revealed that it is not at all sufficient in terms of conducting activities of the Authority as there are only two persons to serve in the Legal Division of the Authority. Therefore, the Chairman of the Committee recommended the Secretary to the Ministry of State that necessary steps to strengthen the legal sector should be looked into with immediate effect.
It was also revealed that the Authority had received 89,405 complaints during the period between2011-2020 and as at 31.01.2021, the number of unresolved complaints brought forward was 40,668. The committee stated that it is unfortunate to have only one person working in the Law Enforcement Division who handles complaints. Furthermore, the Committee directed that the Law Enforcement Division be strengthened in order to expedite the process of handling complaints accordingly.
The need to investigate and regulate all orphanages in Sri Lanka was also discussed at length. The Chairman recommended that the Authority prepare a new program for this purpose and take immediate action to obtain all the basic data.
Although the National Child Protection Authority has data on complaints, the committee also noted the lack of a national database on child abuse. The Committee directed that steps be taken to develop a more formal database as formal data is essential for future child abuse prevention programs.
It was revealed that there are 548 approved posts in the institute and 206 of them are vacant. The COPE Chairman instructed the authorities to take immediate action as the recruitment process for the approved posts could be done with the approval of the Secretary to the Ministry.
COPE committee Chairman Prof. Herath stressed the importance of resolving these issues of the National Child Protection Authority, which plays a crucial role in the country advocating for abused children. Thus, the Chairman emphasized on the importance of making the institution a strong institution. He also said that the authority would be summoned before the COPE Committee again later this year.