A leading weekend print media reported recently that the final draft of the National Audit Bill was submitted to the Office of the Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe by Legal Draftsman on 14 June 2016 and it is held up there since then.
Ranil Wickremesinghe, whose days as the premier appear to be almost numbered, should see the importance of making the office of the Auditor General absolutely independent and most powerful. He should comprehend the bigger picture in establishing the office of the Auditor General with sweeping powers to audit any public office with no impediments whatsoever. The politicians may come and go, but there shall be a powerful audit office, as the only way forward in the right direction of good governance. Ranil Wickremesinghe should understand that he has no moral right to impede the process of making all organs of the government accountable to the people for all their actions.
With the bond scam coming to light with overwhelming evidence, it appears that Wickremesinghe government that pledged people ‘yahapalana rule’ has miserably failed and it is very unlikely the recovery of the lost ground, as people seem to have withdrawn their confidence in the regime.
At this crucial point of time what the nation demands is to facilitate the establishment of a powerful national audit office to deal with any public office as this country has enormously suffered enough in the hands of people with no integrity and who are responsible for abusing the public office for private benefit, which make them liable under the bribery and corruption law.
Wrongdoers can either be Mahinda Rajapaksa or Wickremesinghe loyalist. Yet, what the people demand now is justice, for the serious crimes committed against them, whose trust has been miserably abused by the dishonest politicos with scant respect to the rule of law.
In Sri Lanka, which is a representative democracy, it is the people who hold inalienable autonomous powers, including legislative, executive or judicial powers, that is being exercised by the people elected or appointed as MPs, Cabinet of Ministers or the Judiciary purely on trust. Therefore, the people have every right to demand for a foolproof audit system to make any person accountable to all forms of misdeeds, which cannot be ensured without such an authority in place (office of the Auditor General), similar to National Audit Office in the UK. However the dishonest politicians may naturally not like it, but they should understand that it is one of the foremost necessities in good governance.
People of Sri Lanka can learn a lot from the UK, considered the mother of democracy, where there is a National Audit Office established by law, which is an absolutely independent body responsible for auditing the entire government business with unfettered powers conferred in it. It gives assurance to the people over three aspects of the government expenditure, the truth and fairness of financial statements, the regularity of the government expenditure and propriety of the audited body’s conduct in accordance with parliamentary, statutory and public expectations. It meets the International Standards of Auditing (ISAs) in all aspects.
In recent past the national audit office made number of MPs who were found to have abused their office to resign including the most powerful Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith. She was caught whilst making wrong claim of just 9 pounds from the taxpayers’ money. This amply shows how a democracy should work.
Like in the UK, the office of the Auditor General shall also conferred with powers to carry out value for money audits (VFM) that are non-financial audits to ensure the effectiveness, economy and efficiency of government spending. This shall include the auditing of the major projects undertaken by the previous regime as well as the financial irregularities of the Wickremesinghe government.