Auditor General Gamini Wijesinghe draws flak for timing of national debt claim SLPP slams govt. over AG’s conduct, polls monitors differ
Posted on February 10th, 2018

By Shamindra Ferdinando Courtesy The Island

Alleging that Auditor General Gamini Wijesinghe has issued a controversial statement in respect of national debt beneficial to the ruling coalition ahead of the Feb. 10 local government polls, National Polls Observation Center (NPOC) has urged the National Election Commission and the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Sri Lanka to inquire into the official’s conduct.

NPOC National Organizer and attorney-at-law Rasanga Harischandra yesterday told The Island that Wijesinghe had thrown his weight behind the government at the expense of other political parties in the fray.

Pointing out that there was a sharp difference between the debt calculations by the Central Bank and the Ministry of Finance, Wijesinghe said that the total debt, foreign and domestic, of Sri Lanka had been Rs. 10.3 trillion by November 30, 2017.

In a letter hand delivered to the CEO, Institute of Chartered Accountants, Aruna de Alwis on Thursday, Harischandra called for an immediate and comprehensive inquiry into the conduct of Wijesinghe, a Chartered Accountant, in accordance with Section 17 of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Sri Lanka. The NPOC has requested that the investigation especially deal with breach of the “General Applications of the Code’ as well as the breach of the Code by “Professional Accountants in Public Practice.”

Aruna de Alwis confirmed receiving a letter assuring that due process in respect of such a complaint would be followed.

Harischandra stressed that as the Auditor General had never played politics previously and Wijesinghe’s move had surprised them. Harischandra faulted Director General Information Sudarshana Gunawardena for allowing Wijesinghe to use the Information Department to address the media on Feb. 7 morning.

Harischandra stressed that Wijesinghe had no right whatsoever to disclose information pertaining to public sector institutes subjected to auditing process. The NPOC spokesman said that the outfit was yet to receive response from Chartered Accountants and the National Elections Commission.

Information Chief Gunawardena strongly defended his decision to allow the AG to use the Information Department. Gunawardena insisted that the AG’s right to use Information Department to deal with national debt couldn’t be challenged under any circumstances. Gunawardena was responding to a query by The Island as regards allegations made by NPOC and Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP).

SLPP Secretary and attorney-at-law Sagara Kariyawasam has, in a letter to Gunawardena, warned that he will be appropriately dealt in future. Kariyawasam has accused Gunawardena of running a special unit within the Information Department to undermine the SLPP/Joint Opposition.

Gunawardena made available a copy of the letter received from Kariyawasam to The Island.

CAFFE Executive Director Rajith Keerthi Tennakoon told The Island that his outfit really appreciated the AG’s stand. Of course anyone could challenge Wijesinghe in respect figures released at the media briefing, Tennakoon said, adding that the national economy wouldn’t have been in crisis if proper auditing systems had been in place. Tennakoon pointed out that Wijesinghe’s statement should be viewed against the backdrop of the Rajapaksa administration decision not to enact the National Audit Bill for a decade and the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government holding it up for the last three years.

PAFFREL chief Rohana Hettiarachchi told The Island that political parties or any other organisation couldn’t find fault with the AG for making a public statement regarding national debt. It would be the responsibility of politicians and relevant officials to address concerns expressed by the AG. However, the AG shouldn’t have caused unnecessary controversy on the eve of countrywide election, the first in three years, by calling a special media briefing, Hettiarachchi asserted. The civil activist said that different groups viewed the AG’s move from different perspectives.

Transparency International Sri Lanka representative told The Island that those responsible should take tangible measures to address concerns raised by the AG. Asked whether the TISL felt that the AG’s statement had given some advantage to a particular political party, the spokesman said: “While the timing of the revelation just before the moratorium on election campaigning is unfortunate, it is important for the integrity of the electoral process that it is interpreted as an issue of financial discipline and not as a politically sensitive matter.”

The CAFFE, PAFFREL and TISL admitted that there should be national discussion on the national debt issue.

4 Responses to “Auditor General Gamini Wijesinghe draws flak for timing of national debt claim SLPP slams govt. over AG’s conduct, polls monitors differ”

  1. NeelaMahaYoda Says:

    This is exactly what I have been pointing out.

    Wijesinghe had no right whatsoever to disclose information pertaining to public sector institutes subjected to auditing process.

    Audit should not be biased. In recent years, a dramatic increase in raising red flag about auditor objectivity. This growing trend triggered the departments to seriously question whether auditors have a conflict of interest that compromises the quality of an audit.

    Audit report should not be one sided. They should raised the issues of concerns with relevant departments and request the response before inclusion in the final report.

    Apparently these procedures have not been followed in Sri Lanka.

    When Auditor general raises some concerns, did he include central bank or the financial ministry’s responses to that concern. Otherwise his report has no value at all . This is clearly stated in the procedure under ISO9001.

  2. Dilrook Says:

    If he has done anything wrong, legal action must be taken. But rest assured no one will institute any legal action because there is no cause of action. The unfortunate part is the main issue (debt crisis) is omitted. People are getting distracted from the main issue.

    A presidential commission of inquiry must be appointed to look at the debt crisis and inform the public what is the total liability of the state including its corporations, who obtained what loan and when.

    Until then various numbers will be thrown at each other political camp while over 90% of state revenue goes to repay loans and interest.

  3. Dilrook Says:

    Shamindra wrote another article in the same newspaper today where the Auditor General disputes allegations against him.


  4. Fran Diaz Says:

    NMY has stated that the Audit Law has to be followed by the AG.

    It is not Law & Order in Lanka, but “Low & Odour” as a wag put it – and that is true for most govt institutions today.
    Also, RW’s ongoing “Crash & Sell” program, with the nasty New Constitution waiting in the wings to legally divide the country and sell it off to foreign elements.

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