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FeaturesCoPA opens Pandora’s box on public accounts

CoPA opens Pandora’s box on public accounts


■Timely and effective audits missing
 ■Committee cites lack of coordination between auditors and State institutions
 ■Says funds allocated to institutions and ministries are being returned to the Treasury at end of year
■Wants running instead of performance audits for state institutions
 Two days after COPE tabled an explosive report pointing to the precarious financial positions of some State owned enterprises, another Parliamentary oversight committee yesterday presented its very first report in three years, saying public accounts were not being audited in a timely or effective way.

 Presenting the Comm-ittee on Public Accounts (CoPA) report to the House yesterday, Deputy Finance Minister and CoPA Chairman Dr. Sarath Amunugama said that many Government establishments had returned their financial allocations to the Treasury, having failed to make use of the provisions prudently.
 Minister Amunugama also observed the lack of coordination or good relations between the officers at State institutions and the staff of the Department of Auditor General.
 “We saw a lack of relationship between the Government officials and the staff of the Auditor General. They shouldn’t have waited until we summoned them to do an audit. This is a waste of time and even minor matters are included in the Auditor General’s report and subsequently, in our investigation,” the CoPA Chairman said, adding that the Committee was recommending a running audit instead of a performance audit and would be working towards that process in the future.
 “At the moment, what we have is a performance audit, which is conducted as a post mortem. What we need is a running audit to go in parallel to this. We will make necessary changes to the system to accommodate the running audit,” he said.
 Amunugama charged that State institutions were failing to utilise the monies allocated to them in order to implement programs and projects.
 “At the end of every calendar year, these allocations are returned to the Treasury. Parliament allocates these funds to these State institutions for a purpose,” he explained.
 CoPA was appointed on 20 May 2010 for the first session of the seventh Parliament.
 “The committee met on 8 June 2010 and continued to meet on a regular basis, conducting its business on par with the Standing Orders of the Parliament,” Amunugama said.
 The Committee had examined the accounts of 69 Government establishments for the period 8 June 2010 till 31 December 2011.
 “One of the main objectives of the committee is to examine whether the administration and management structure of the Government has satisfactorily carried out the responsibilities entrusted upon these institutions efficiently, effectively and transparently during the timeframe they were expected to complete those projects, programs and other administrative activities in accordance with administrative and financial regulations,” the CoPA Chairman added.

By Ashwin Hemmathagama

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