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National Audit Act a far cry from original draft – JVP

The government had let down both the national audit commission and the public by watering down the National Audit Bill to save corrupt officials, the JVP said yesterday.

JVP Politburo member and MP Sunil Handunnetti told the media at the party headquarters in Pelawatte: “The National Audit bill was originally to be passed as part of the 100-day programme of the government. The government delayed it for three years and three months. The original bill contained provisions to enable an independent commission to have strong teeth to fight corruption. The government watered down the Bill. Had the original bill been passed the ministers would not have been able to get the officials to support their corrupt deals.”

Handunnetti said that the new law would shift some of the duties from the National Audit Commission to the Ministry Secretaries. The new law had failed to be of help to the Auditor General and the people of this country who had to bear the cost of corruption. Both the President and the Prime Minister should take the responsibility of amending the original bill to suit the political needs of ministers, the JVPers said.

Some of the amendments which had rendered the commission toothless were funny, MP Handunnetti said. “There was a provision in the original bill to impose a fine of Rs. 100,000 on officials who furnish false information during audit queries. The fine has been brought down to Rs 5,000 by an amendment. This is in a country where even some traffic offence carry fines of Rs 25,000 each.”

The original bill contained provisions, enabling the commission to investigate not only public institutions but also the special projects outsourced to private companies. “That provision has been removed. Similarly, the powers of the Auditor General as regards internal audits of statutory bodies including government corporations, boards, authorities etc have been removed. What is wrong in the Auditor General investigating public institutions?”

Handunnetti said that the National Audit Bill had suffered the same fate as the Senaka Bibile drug policy. “The drug policy finally introduced is a far cry from the original one drafted by Prof. Bibile. The government has done the same to the National Audit Bill,” he said.