Controversy over the Auditor General’s damming
report on UNDP funded IT projects in Parliament has taken a new
turn with an IT Expert Panel appointed by the ICTA (Information
and Communication Technology Agency) strongly disputing the
The ICTA had been the consultants to the
The ten-member panel, in its 18-page report has
pointed out that there was no basis for AG’s report which
faulted both the House administration and UNDP for glaring
shortcomings in the multi million USD project launched after the
Oslo-brokered CFA came into operation in February 2002.
The panel comprised Dr. Ajith Madurapperuma
(Senior Lecturer, University of Moratuwa), Prof. Gihan V. Dias
(Senior Lecturer, University of Moratuwa), Dr. Prasad
Wimalaratne (Senior Lecturer, University of Colombo) Wasantha
Deshapriya (Director, Re-Engineering Government, ICTA) Ms.
Thusha Mukunthan (e-Parliament Project, ICTA), Rajiv Ranjan (ICT
for Development Advisor, UNDP), Mahesh Perera (Director
Information System Management, Parliament, Buddhika
Nawagamua (Systems Engineer, Parliament) and K.O.D.D. Fernando
(Deputy General Manager-IT, Sri Lanka Foreign Employment Bureau)
and Thushara Suraweera (Assistant Secretary, Presidential
The panelists said that the AG’s report based on
the audit carried out by Eidikos Lanka (Pvt) Limited lacked
clarity, contained inaccuracies and failed to meet its own
Authoritative sources said that the appointment
of the IT Expert Panel was made on a request made by a
Parliamentary Select Committee headed by Geethanjana Gunawardene,
Deputy Speaker. Sources said the PSC which was tasked with
exploring ways and means of maintaining and improving standards
of the House scrutinised the AG’s findings.
Sources asserted that there couldn’t be a
similar case where the Auditor General’s findings had been
dismissed. The sources said that on the basis of the ‘new
findings’ the House wouldn’t be required to act on the AG’s
The panel has held that the AG’s report failed
to identify the progress of the UNDP funded IT projects. It also
accused the AG of ‘misrepresenting the situation with inaccurate
and misleading comments.’
Expressing its full confidence in the project,
the panel, in its report dated December 27, 2007 has recommended
the continuation of the project without delay. "We are of the
view that the comments and substance of the audit report didn’t
warrant or justify any substantial deviation from the strategy
or specifications already evolved in this regard," the panel has
said while calling for the setting up of what it called a
rightful authority to carry forward the strategy speedily.
Subsequently, the outgoing Secretary General
Mrs. Priyanee Wijesekera, who had been the Project Director of
the grandiose project, delegated authority to her Deputy
Dhammika Dassanayake. Although the Secretary General had been in
overall in charge of the project, the second-in-command had been
responsible for the implementation, the sources said.
In fact, Mrs. Wijesekera, in response to the
‘Draft Interim Audit Report’ sent to her in last June, fired
back a letter to the Auditor General denying her involvement in
the project. She emphasised that she wouldn’t take
responsibility for the IT budget revision and implementation of
the IT component of the UNDP funded project.
Following the rejection of the audit findings,
the UNDP had signalled that it would agree to go ahead with the
project. Earlier, the agency said that it would pull out of the
project. Well informed sources said that subsequent to UNDP
warning, the House had sought financial backing from an
international lending agency.
The panel has strongly disputed the AG’s
decision to employ Eidikos Lanka (Pvt) Limited to carry out the
audit , on which his final report dated November 7, 2007 was
based. The panelists said, "Firstly we bring it to the notice of
the committee [PSC] that Eidikos Lanka (Pvt) limited which was
chosen to do the audit by the AG Department consisted of a set
of former employees of Ernest and Young, who were the
consultants responsible for the system study, prepared the ICT
Strategic Plan and developed the bid documents for Parliament."
In an unprecedented attack on the AG, the panel said that they
shouldn’t have been allowed to audit the project under any
circumstances. "It is very unfortunate that AG has appointed and
delegated the IT audit to a group of individuals who may not be
neutral. This is a conflict of interest."
The panel also accused the AG of turning a blind
eye to clarifications provided by Parliament, ICTA and UNDP to
the ‘Draft Interim Audit Report’ sent to Parliament in the
second week of last June.