The Need for a Pre audit
Posted on June 24th, 2022

Sugath Kulatunga

Professor Charitha Herath is doing an excellent job as Chairman of COPE and deserves the accolades and thanks of the public for this performance. He calls a spade a spade and has already made a few upstarts of high posts admit their mistakes. He is even prepared to propose changes in the Standing Orders of the Parliament to punish the miscreants responsible for the present economic crisis. Recent COPE examination revealed many questionable expenditure-like projects in the CEB which are not in operation, but Project Managers appointed and paid fat salaries. CEB has also been meeting the income tax liabilities of taxable CEB officials. The Port spends a huge sum of money to provide free meals to employees. The amount spent on cashew nuts was Rs 47 million. But what COPE can do is merely to name and shame and perhaps propose changes in the system.

One thing that is worrisome is that COPE examinations are postmortem exercises. Most times the offenders are not in the scene at the time the corporation goes before COPE.. It is like closing the stable door after the horses have bolted.

COPE examinations are based on the report of the Auditor General and COPE does not go beyond the immediate report of the Auditor General.

Is it not possible to introduce a preventive system where the Auditor General reports to the COPE when it comes to his notice a major fraud or irregularity taking place in an institution? Auditor General has his representative in all major corporations and the Agenda of Board meetings and board papers are made available to the AG’s representative before a board meets. Therefore, he should be getting prior information of a brewing fraud. In addition, there is no shortage of whistleblowers in our institutions who would be monitoring suspicious activities and bring them to the notice of the AG’s representative and he in turn can make an immediate report to the AG who then can use his discretion and make a confidential report to the Chairman of the COPE. It is then left to the Chairman of COPE to take immediate remedial action by summoning the parties concerned. If such pre-audit is not allowed under the present standing orders, they should be changed to adopt this procedure. Pre-audit will be an effective deterrent to such fraudulent activities.

Sugath Kulatunga

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