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Bandula dismisses vote on account allegations; claims all constitutional provisions correctly followed

ECONOMYNEXT – The government needed to take out loans to allocate funds to the public health service to meet pandemic expenditure, which does not mean a vote on account was passed in parliament, Minister Bandula Gunawardane said.

Dismissing an allegation made by the opposition Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) earlier this week, the minister said the Loans (Special Provision) Act no 40 of 1982 gives the government the power to raise local and international loans in the absence of an appropriation bill.

Former JVP MP Sunil Handunnetti on Wednesday (6) questioned how a vote on account for March-May 2020 was included in the Finance Ministry’s Pre-election Budgetary Position Report 2020, issued under the Fiscal Management (Responsibility) Act, when there was no legislature to approve it.

The report states: “As per the Article 150 (3) of the Constitution of Sri Lanka, His Excellency the President may authorise the issue from the Consolidated Fund and the expenditure of such sums as he may consider necessary for the public services until the expiry of a period of three months from the date on which the new Parliament is summoned to meet.

“As such, Vote on Account for three months commencing from March 06, 2020 has been prepared. The total provision of Rs 1,229 billion has been provided for the Government expenditure comprising Rs 715 billion for recurrent expenditure and Rs 150 billion for capital expenditure which includes the spill over expenditure from 2019. Rs 360 billion has been allocated for the loan repayment. The estimated government expenditure for the respected period is Rs 420 billion.”

Several opposition MPs including former Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera have objected to the alleged use of unauthorised funds.

Minister Gunawardane, however, claimed today that, according to Sri Lanka’s constitution, once parliament is dissolved, all parliamentary powers related to state funds are passed onto the president.

Speaking to reporters this morning, he said members of the opposition should realise that the situation on government funds before and after parliament is dissolved is entirely different.

The Minister made this remark in response to an allegation made by former MP Ajith P Perera that the government had borrowed money exceeding the accepted loan limit.

Echoing Secretary to the President P B Jayasundara, Gunawardena said that article 150(3) of the constitution outlines how the government should legally function in such a situation.

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The section reads: “Where the President dissolves Parliament before the Appropriation Bill for the financial year has passed into law, he may unless Parliament shall have already made provision, authorize the issue from the Consolidated Fund and the expenditure of such sums as he may consider necessary for the public services until the expiry of a period of three months from the date on which the new Parliament is summoned to meet.”

Since necessary allocations have not been made to the health sector to fight the novel coronavirus which has become a threat to the national security, economy and human life, said Gunawardena, the President has made those allocations in order to protect human lives.

He further said that the president and the caretaker cabinet always adhere to the provisions in the constitution and that President’s Secretary Jayasundara has made all the necessary allocations after seeking legal advice from the Attorney General. (Colombo/May9/2020)

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