Better oversight mooted to strengthen Sri Lanka public sector finances

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s main accounting body has proposed setting up a budget review committee to review government budgets and National Review Committees to monitor performance of public enterprises.

The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Sri Lanka (CA Sri Lanka), in its proposals ahead of the government’s forthcoming budget in November, said it also urged the government to speed up the enactment of a Right to Information bill.

"We suggested amending standing orders of Parliament to strengthen performance review by COPA (Committee on Public Accounts) and COPE (Committee on Public Enterprises) and to establish a budget committee to review the national budget," said V Kanagasabapathy.

"Many people say budgets are unrealistic and cannot serve as instruments of national control," said Kanagasabapathy, President of the Association of Public Finance Accountants of Sri Lanka, the public sector wing of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Sri Lanka.

"Budgets must be reviewed before going to parliament and debated. They must be reviewed by budget committees like in many countries."

Kanagasabapathy also said there was a need to establish national review committees to review performances of public sector institutions. Many of the island’s public sector institutions are mismanaged and loss-making.

"We must get members of civil society organisations and professional bodies to review and report on their performance so public accountability issues can be addressed effectively," he said.

Other proposals from CA Sri Lanka for inclusion in the 2016 budget include expediting the enactment of the Right to Information bill and for financial management reforms in the public sector.

"We asked the government to expedite the enactment of the Public Finance Act and to repeal the outdated Finance Act No. 38 of 1971," said Kanagasabapathy.

"The draft of the new act covering all aspects of public financial management is being discussed."

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CA Sri Lanka has also urged the government to transform archaic ‘Financial Regulations’ into a user-friendly guide and to implement a Code of Best Practice in Corporate Governance for Public Enterprises. (Colombo/October 23 2015)

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