By P. Soma Palan –
I refer to the Front page report in the Daily Mirror of 31st August 2022 under the above caption and wish to comment only on one macro fundamental, among others. President has envisaged therein for economic recovery, namely an “US style Inspector General to be appointed for Expenditure Management”. I am baffled and amused by this proposal for reasons given below:
1. It is the responsibility, duty and function of every single Cabinet Minister to ensure strict Expenditure Management of their respective Ministries, and not the least, the Secretaries of each Ministry.
2. If every single Minister discharges this function competently, efficiently and effectively, it would result in the sum total Expenditure Management of the Government as a whole.
3. If the President thinks that there is a need to appoint a US style Inspector General outside the Cabinet, to ensure Expenditure Management, cutting across all Ministries of the Cabinet, it means that the respective Ministers and/or the Secretaries have failed in their fundamental responsibility, duty and function in Expenditure Management competently, efficiently and effectively.
4. On the other hand, the very act of appointing an overall grand Inspector General for Expenditure Management, the President himself betrays a lack of Expenditure Management, as this is a case of multiplication of more persons to do a job than increasing the productivity of those already doing the jobs. He is increasing the Expenditure rather than conserving or reducing expenditure of governing the country. The Inspector General will not be an honorary post and has to be remunerated handsomely with accompanying perks etc.
5. What is required is increasing the productivity of all concerned by raising their competence, efficiency and effectiveness and instill a high level of cost consciousness in them.
6. An Inspector General for Expenditure Management can fit into the US system of Government, but not for Sri Lanka. It is not clarified and indicated as to whom the Inspector General for Expenditure Management will report to and be responsible? To the Cabinet as a whole or directly to the President? If it is the latter, will it not sideline the Cabinet Ministers and degrade their status and authority? Will not the Inspector General have overriding authority over Ministry Secretaries? The Inspector General of Expenditure Management would be a total outsider from the Administrative Service; a Super Bureaucrat. A conflict situation is inevitable.
7. If we want to borrow from the US system of Governance why not have a smaller Executive like US, despite being a big nation than ours. That itself is real Expenditure Management. We have a multitude of Cabinet Ministers, Deputy Ministers and worse, a plethora of State Ministers, whose role and function are vague, ambiguous and duplicitous. These positions of sinecures should be abolished wholesale. This would result in a huge saving in Government expenditure, and would be an effective Expenditure Management, without the intervention of a US style Inspector General of Expenditure Management.
8. What is lacking really is that most Ministers have no sense of Management, cost effectiveness and cost consciousness. At best they are mere Administrators. This is the general and all-pervading characteristic of the Public Service. The Ministers are in these positions not due to proven competence in Management, but by virtue of being elected by votes of people at an election based on popularity.