Speaker promises submission of National Audit Bill soon



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by Shamindra Ferdinando


Combined Trade Union Alliance of the Auditor General’s Department has received an assurance from Speaker Karu Jayasuriya that the National Audit Bill will be presented to Parliament soon.


Speaker Jayasuriya is also the head of the Constitutional Council responsible for appointing the Independent Audit Commission.


Deputy Auditor General and Convenor of the trade union grouping A.H. M. L. Ambanwela yesterday told The Island that they discussed with Speaker Jayasuriya the inordinate delay in the passage of the Bill. "We received a patient hearing from Speaker Jayasuriya," Ambanwela said.


The trade union delegation comprised Ambanwela, its secretary E. A. P. Prasad Prasanna, K.M.M. Kumarasiri of Audit Service Union, H.M.K. Herath of Audit Examiners Service Union and D.A. Wanasinghe of Combined Service Union.


Speaker Jayasuriya revealed that he had discussed the matter with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and received his blessings for taking necessary action.


Ambanwela said that the trade union alliance had sought Speaker Jayasuriya’s intervention in the wake of certain interested parties wanting to further dilute already weakened National Audit Bill.


Ambanwela, who had suffered grievous injuries while on duty some years ago, emphasised that the AG lacked authority to ensure accountability and transparency in the public sector.


Prasad Prasanna told The Island that the parliament should ensure the passage of the bill, unanimously. The proposed bill would authorize the AG’s Department to scrutinise the conduct of the executive in respect of utilization of public finance, Prasanna said, explainingthe difficulties experienced for over a decade as they struggled to push the bill through parliament.


Both Ambanwela and Prasanna said that they expected the government to place the amended bill before the cabinet without further delay.


 Ambanwela said the government had already done away with or amended about 20 out of 57 sections in the original Bill consequent to it being examined by a four-member Cabinet Sub-Committee comprising Dr Sarath Amunugama, Rauff Hakeem, Anura Priyadarshana Yapa and Ravi Karunanayake.


The Attorney General and Legal Draftsman together with Auditor General’s Department had amended the Bill taking into consideration recommendations made by the Cabinet Sub-Committee. "Now, the amended Bill has been held up for months. We are really disappointed. All of us are appalled by the move to further amend the amend Bill,’ he said


Blaming the previous government for purposely delaying the National Audit Bill for over a decade, Ambanwela pointed out that the incumbent government repeatedly had assured that the National Audit Bill would be passed during President Maithripala Sirisena 100-day programme. In fact, according to President Maithripala


Sirisena’s manifesto, the National Audit Bill was to be adopted before March 19, 2015, Ambanwela said, alleging that due to the government’s failure the Independent Audit Commission couldn’t function.


According to one-time AG S. Swarnajothi, his department had obtained $ 10.5 mn from the International Development Agency (IDA) of the World Bank in accordance with an agreement signed on July 21, 2008 to transform the department to what he called a modern supreme audit institution. Swarnajothi said that the National Audit Bill/Act was meant to streamline auditing process, particularly bring all state sector institutions under the purview of the department.


The previous government at the behest of powerful politicians and officials ignored the AG’s push for the passage of the bill, civil rights activist Professor Sarath Wijesooriya told The Island. The continuing delay in implementing such vital piece of legislation reflected the pathetic situation as regards the utilization of public funds. Prof. Wijesooriya castigated the Yahapalana government for undue delay in the passage of the National Audit Bill.


 


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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