Watch dog committee finds discrepancies in 2017 Budget figures


By Saman Indrajith

The Committee on Public Finance (COPF) had found that the draft Budget Estimates 2017 presented to Parliament do not tally with the actual figures used by the Finance Ministry, Committee Chairman and TNA parliamentarian M.A. Sumanthiran said yesterday. 

Presenting the COPF report on ‘Assessment of the Fiscal, Financial and Economic Assumptions of the Budget 2017" to Parliament the TNA MP said: "We were given a set of figures on Nov. 2 which, we later found, was not the basis on which the Finance Minister presented the Budget.

When we asked for a clarification, another set of figures was given to us on Nov. 12. We based our report on that new set of figures. We recommend that the government distribute among the members the second set of figures given to us, which is not published yet.

We recommend that this be done at least during the Committee Stage debate."

The COPF report tabled yesterday stated that even though the total revenue mentioned in the Budget speech was Rs. 2,088 billion the corresponding figure given in Draft Budget Estimates Vol I-III was only Rs. 1,890 billion. The difference is Rs. 198 billion. Likewise the figures on Tax Revenue, Income Tax and Tax on Goods and Services also have significant differences.

The COPE has also found that the total expenditure mentioned in the Budget Speech, which was Rs. 2,723 billion, differs from the new set of figures given on November 12. The relevant figure in the Estimates of November 12 was Rs. 2,645 billion. The same figure given on red books (Draft Budget Estimates 2017) was Rs. 2,534 billion. 

MP Sumanthiran tabling the report also thanked the independent experts who had helped the committee free of charge. "The Committee wishes to thank Dr. Anila Dias Bandaranaike, Rose Cooray, Themiya Hurulle, Sarath Mayadunne and the team of economists working through Verite Research led by Dr Nishan de Mel for their invaluable input and assistance," he said.

"This report was prepared under a challenging time constraint of four days. Although the Committee worked without a Parliamentary Budget Office this year we are indebted to the aforesaid individuals for their service."

The assessment provided in the report is set out in two sections as ‘assessment on the revenue estimates in the Budget’ and ‘assessment on the expenditure estimates of the Budget’.   

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