The long-awaited National Audit Bill was presented in Parliament yesterday by the Government as it seeks to widen the powers of the Auditor General and establish an Audit Service Commission.
The Bill, which was presented by Chief Government Whip Minister Gayantha Karunathilaka, was initially published as a gazette on 16 March 2018.
The Bill seeks to provide the powers, duties and functions of the Audit Service Commission as well as for the establishment of the National Audit Office and the Sir Lanka State Audit Service.
The Bill also stipulates the role the Auditor General would play concerning public finance.
The Bill was formulated with the inclusion of amendments proposed by the Cabinet subcommittee headed by the Minister of Special Assignments, Dr. Sarath Amunugama.
It specifies the scope of audits carried out by the Auditor General such as the auditing of all expenditure from the Consolidate Fund.
“The scope of an audit carried out by the Auditor General includes examining the accounts, finances, financial position and prudent management of public finance and properties of auditee entities. The Auditor General shall be responsible to Parliament in carrying out the provisions of the Act,” the Bill states.
According to the Bill, the Chief Accounting Officer of a State institute would be vested with the powers of Surcharge.
The Chief Accounting Officers could impose the surcharge on any individual responsible for loss or deficit, either jointly or individually, followed by official disciplinary action by a Disciplinary Authority or judicial process.
“The Audit Service Commission shall report the amount of any deficiency or loss in any transaction of an auditee entity if it has been made contrary to any written law and has caused any deficiency or loss due to fraud, negligence, misappropriation or corruption of those involved,” the Bill stated.
Furthermore, the Bill states that the Constitutional Council would appoint a Surcharge Appeal Committee, comprising five members, which would be tasked with hearing and determining appeals by any person against whom a surcharge has been imposed. The Auditor General cannot be a member of the Committee, the Bill clarifies.
The National Audit Bill was a key election pledge of President Maithripala Sirisena during the 2015 presidential election campaign.
Thus far, multiple organisations, including Transparency International, have raised issues regarding the dilution of the Bill, particularly to the provision pertaining to surcharge.
The Second Reading of the Bill will take place today in Parliament.