Govt. renders National Audit Bill toothless Revises it a third time
Posted on March 12th, 2017
By Shamindra Ferdinando Courtesy The Island
March 12, 2017, 10:14 pm
The government had further diluted the proposed National Audit Bill making it ineffective, Auditor General’s Department sources said yesterday.
Officials told The Island that the latest amendment had made the proposed piece of legislation wholly useless and it wouldn’t yield the desired results. The Bill was aimed at tackling public sector corruption, sources said.
The National Audit Bill was to be introduced on Feb. 19, 2015 at the beginning of the 100-day programme of the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government.Asked whether the government had discussed the matter with the AG’s Department at that time, sources pointed out that it was a public pledge made in the run-up to January 2015 presidential poll. The passage of the 19 Amendment to the Constitution on April 29, 2015 was to pave the way for the introduction of the National Audit Bill the following day.
Combined Trade Union Alliance of the Auditor General’s Department has repeatedly alleged that the government was acting very much contrary to the promises given in the run up to presidential and parliamentary polls in 2015.
Speaker Karu Jayasuriya shares a light moment with Auditor General Gamini Wijesinghe and COPE Chairman JVP MP Sunil Handunetti at the AGM of Audit Service Association recently (pic courtesy Speaker’s Office)
The Bill had been diluted thrice much to the disappointment of those who really believed in powerful and independent audit mechanism to straighten the public sector, sources said, faulting the Joint Opposition (JO) for not taking up the matter both in and outside Parliament.
A four-member Cabinet Sub-Committee comprising Dr Sarath Amunugama, Rauff Hakeem, Anura Priyadarshana Yapa and Ravi Karunanayake proposed amendments to the original Bill. Subsequently, it was sent to senior prime ministerial adviser Charitha Ratwatte for further examination and further amendments. Thereafter, twice amended Bill underwent further amendments severely inimical to the very purpose the Bill, according to sources. Accusing the Finance Ministry of proposing the most recent changes, sources said that the AG’s department felt that there was no point in making further representations to the government in this regard.
Asked whether the Auditor General’s Department had succumbed to political pressure to dilute the original Bill, sources said that the government had initially wanted to do away with or amend about 20 out of 57 sections in the Bill. Then there had been further amendments, sources said, alleging that an effort was made to subject the authority of the AG to that of the Audit Service Commission. However, even the National Audit Commission couldn’t function until the passage of the National Audit Bill, sources said.
There had been no reason for amending the original Bill as it was drafted by a top level committee headed by the Auditor General, officials said.
Sources alleged that th weakening of the Bill was contrary to an assurance given by Speaker Karu Jayasuriya at the AGM of Sri Lanka Audit Service Association on January 6. Addressing the gathering, Speaker Jayasuriya said that environment would be created soon to pave the way for the AG’s Department officers to serve the country fearlessly. Speaker Jayasuriya said that the Department’s role was indispensable in respect of work undertaken by the COPE as well as the Public Accounts Committee. The Speaker said that a survey had revealed that a staggering 40 per cent of taxpayers’ money spent on public projects was wasted.