Confusion over Audit Draft Bill
Document yet to reach Cabinet:
The long overdue new Audit Draft Bill that will give sweeping powers
to the Auditor General to hold state officials accountable over fiscal
matters has stopped short of reaching Cabinet.
The Auditor General Gamini Wijesinghe said they were expecting the
draft Bill to be presented to Cabinet this week but due to some reason
or other it has been going back and forth for the past several weeks.
This was the third time it failed to reach Cabinet, the Auditor
Earlier, a contentious proposal to set up an independent fund for the
Department to support incidental expenses was abandoned after it
received stiff resistance. Subsequently an amended draft was sent back
to the Prime Minister’s office which is responsible for submitting the
relevant cabinet paper.
The draft carrying legal provisions to give extensive powers to the
Auditor General was prepared fulfilling a promise of the unity
government under the 100 day program.
“We cannot maintain independence if we need to ask for money from the
Finance Ministry for every major assignment that come our way, for
instance the Central Bank bond issue,” the Auditor General pointed out.
The proposed independent fund was to be sustained by fees levied on
private assignments by the Auditor General. The Department agreed to
empty the fund to the Treasury coffers at the end of every financial
year and hold a special audit by an independent body.
“But since there was resistance to this proposal from the
bureaucracy, it was dropped.” Once the act is in place the Auditor
General’s office will have financial independence from the Treasury over
budgetary allocations. The speaker and the parliament will be empowered
to approve the annual estimates. “These proposals are in keeping with UN
standards,” he said adding that their effort is to transform this Agency
into a Supreme Audit Institution.