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MR says PM’s and President’s offices will be audited after 20A but Auditors’ Union disagrees

ECONOMYNEXT- Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa is saying that the offices of the President and the Prime Minister will continue to remain within the purview of the Auditor General by the proposed 20th amendment to the constitution, and reports to the contrary are Opposition propaganda.

The Government Auditors Union, however, told EconomyNext that the proposed 20th Amendment opens the door for these two top offices to avoid an audit.

Issuing a statement yesterday, the Prime Minister said that it is seldom “that the Constitutional provisions regarding the Auditor General come to the attention of the public. This has made it easier for the opposition to propagate various falsehoods in this connection.”

Rajapaksa said that from the very inception of the 1978 Constitution, the Presidential Secretariat and the Prime Minister’s Office have been under the purview of the Auditor General.

He said that the phrase “all departments of government” in Article 154(1) of the pre-19th amendment constitution brought the Presidential Secretariat and the Prime Minister’s Office under the purview of the Auditor General. These institutions were always listed as government departments in the Government Financial Regulations.

Speaking to EconomyNext Speaking the secretary of Sri Lanka Audit Service Association R.M.P.A. Janaka agreed, but added that some Secretaries to the President had refused an audit saying these offices are “not normal government departments.”

“We audited them some time ago, there was no problem back then, but later some of the President’s Secretaries did not allow the secretariat to be audited as they said it was not a normal department of the government,” Janaka said.

So he added that it was the reason to specifically include the Office of the Secretary to the President and the Office of the Secretary to the Prime Minister in article 154 (1) to the constitution through the 19th amendment.

Rajapaksa said the inclusion of the Presidential Secretariat and the Office of the Prime Minister by name in Article 154(1), by the 19th amendment did not achieve “anything new.”

“Even after the 20th amendment reinstates the old article 154(1) which existed from the inception of the 1978 Constitution, in place of the so-called ‘changes’ made by the 19th Amendment, the Presidential Secretariat and the Prime Minister’s Office will continue to remain within the purview of the Auditor General. Over the past decades, it’s the Auditor General who audited the Presidential Secretariat and the Prime Minister’s Office and not some private audit firm,” Prime Minister said.

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Janaka added that he does not see what the idea was behind “removing already written things in the constitution, there is no need to think about something which indirectly indicates when it was already clearly written,” he said. (Colombo, October 5, 2020)

Reported by Imesh Ranasinghe