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Tuesday, June 18, 2024

National Audit Bill gathering dust since 2007; PUCSL chief wants ‘CEB monster’ tamed

The much-touted National Audit Bill has been gathering dust for over six years, while public enterprises are plagued by waste, corruption and irregularities despite the existence of the parliamentary watchdog committees, the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) and the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

The Auditor General’s Department says the implementation of the Bill is beyond its control and it couldn’t be held responsible for the inordinate delay in the execution of the project.

The Island raised the issue with the Department following Head of the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCSL) Dr. Jayatissa de Costa’s allegation that the debt ridden Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) had failed to adhere to the basic auditing standards. He alleged that there were only six internal auditors for the CEB with a workforce of 18,000.

A senior AG Department official declined to comment on the unwarranted delay.

Commenting on Dr. Jayatissa’s allegations, the official said that the CEB was responsible for internal auditing.

The head of the CEB internal audit was answerable to the Chairman of the institution, therefore the PUCSL should press the enterprise to strengthen the internal audit. Responding to a query, the official said that the AG’s Department would make its findings known to the COPE and PAC for further action.

Although the COPE forwarded some of its own findings along with recommendations to the Bribery Commissions during MP Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe’s tenure, as the COPE chief, investigations hadn’t been completed into any of the high profile cases, political sources said.

COPE Chairman and senior Minister D. E. W. Gunasekara wasn’t available for comment yesterday.

According to former AG, S. Swarnajothi, the Draft National Audit Bill together with required amendments to the Constitution as well as recommendations made by a presidential committee had been with the Attorney General since 2007. Swarnajothi revealed in his 2007 annual report submitted to parliament that the AG had entered into an agreement with the World Bank arm, the International Development Agency to obtain $ 10.5 million to implement what he called an institutional development plan prepared by the National Audit Office of the United Kingdom and the Dutch National Court of Audit way back in 2004.

Dr. Costa said that the latest electricity tariff increase was subject to the CEB meeting certain conditions imposed on the institution to enhance its efficiency. Asked whether his actions could lead to a conflict with the CEB, Dr. Costa emphasized that it couldn’t be allowed to have its way. He said he was determined to ‘tame the monster’.

By Shamindra Ferdinando/IS


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