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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Sri Lanka Govt Exceeded Approved Credit Limit by 1570 Billion – Auditor General

( Minister of Finance Ravi Karunanayake Vs Auditor General Gamini Wijesinghe)

Auditor General Gamini Wijesinghe re-assures the 100% accuracy of the report he submitted stating the government has taken Rs 3,350 billion as local and foreign loans exceeding the approved credit limit of Rs 1,780 billion.

The Auditor General told Ceylon Today that the Ministry of Finance had erroneously interpreted the 2014 No. 14 Appropriation Bill, which marked the upper ceiling of government credit for year 2015.

Quoting the Auditor General\’s report, Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayaka, MP, said in Parliament on 22 June that the government had obtained over two-fold of the credit approved by Parliament.

Minister of Finance Ravi Karunanayake criticized the Auditor General in Parliament on the same day. Deputy Minister of State Enterprise Development Eran Wickremaratne held a press conference in Parliament on that day and said that the Auditor General had miscalculated.

“Not me. The Finance Ministry has erred,” said Auditor General Gamini Wijesinghe. “I have only implemented the law. The Auditor General does not submit two reports but one. Parliament approved only Rs 1,780 billion as credit for the government for 2015 as per 2014 No. 41 Appropriation Bill. But the government has exceeded that limit and obtained Rs 3,350 billion. My responsibility is to record the income and expenditure properly. I have done my duty.”

Meanwhile, media reported that Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had summoned the Auditor General on Thursday and inquired about this. The Prime Minister emphasized to the Auditor General that the government had to submit the State\’s income and expenses to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) when obtaining loans.

Although only Parliament can question the Auditor General, the Minister of Finance also summoned the official for questioning on Friday. In response to our inquiry, the Auditor General said that he was answerable only to Parliament of Sri Lanka.

“Thinking about how to answer the IMF is the government\’s responsibility. The government should have thought of it before obtaining loans from the IMF. It is not my responsibility. I must answer to Parliament. I cannot lie and I think only for the country. I have acted according to that obligation. Moreover, the Auditor General\’s annual report is considered when IMF grants loans. I don\’t think they would proceed with loans if they consider the report of the Ministry of Finance,” the Auditor General argued.

The denomination of State credit in 2015 according to the Auditor Generals is as follows:
Foreign Loans – Rs 556 billion
Treasury Bills – Rs 1,533 billion
Treasury Bonds – Rs 926 billion
Development Bonds – Rs 335 billion
Total Rs 3,350 billion

But the breakdown of State credit, according to the Ministry of Finance, is as follows:

Foreign Loans – Rs 556 billion
Treasury Bills – ( -Rs 73 billion)
Treasury Bonds – Rs 926 billion
Development Bonds – Rs 335 billion
Total Rs 1,738 billion

ontroversy is building around Treasury Bills. The State has obtained Rs 1,533 billion as per Treasury Bills in 2015. With the balance of credit of the past years, the government has paid Rs 1,606 billion. The minus balance is Rs 73 billion. The Auditor General states that the government has obtained
Rs 1,533 by way of Treasury Bills but recorded only Rs 73 billion to the total debt.

“Ministry of Finance has only calculated the net borrowings. They calculate only the minus 73B which they have paid extra whilst Rs 1,606 billion is paid including the loans in the past. It is wrong. I must record the total borrowings. That means although the loans have been settled, the total deal is not abolished. Therefore, our report mentions about the total borrowings. That is the correct methodology,” the Auditor General says.

He stated further that the same wrong methodology was followed in the past years also and it had been corrected in the 2015 report.
Meanwhile, the combined trade union alliance of Auditor General\’s Department held a press conference on Friday and vehemently denied Minister of Finance, Karunanayake criticizing the Auditor General in Parliament and questioning him later. The president of the combined trade union alliance of Auditor General\’s Department, Deputy Auditor General Lalith Ambanwela said that a government minister criticizing an independent official like Auditor General was highly questionable.

“Auditor General\’s report is the account of State revenue and expenditure. The Auditor General has prepared it very accurately in 2015. The country is moving towards destruction due to certain shortcomings. The Auditor General looks into this issue. All the officers of the Auditor General\’s Department sternly protest the action of the Minister of Finance. Auditor General is a position which is not answerable to any Ministry or Minister. Summoning him and questioning damages the independence and respect of the position. This practice was not seen earlier. Therefore, this must not be a wrong paradigm,” Deputy Auditor General Ambanwela emphasized.
At the press conference held with the participation of all the trade unions of the Auditor General\’s Department, the trade unions said that a minority was usurping the State\’s resources.

“We are trying to pass the Audit Bill since 2004 to capture the group that robs the people\’s wealth and resources. But this government also tries to dilute the Audit Bill. Passing of the Bill is being called off. The Minister of Finance criticized the Auditor General in Parliament in this circumstance,” the trade unions accused.

Our attempts to contact Minister of Finance Ravi Karunanayake and Deputy Minister Eran Wickremaratne to inquire about the issue failed.



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