Accounting for public enterprises
COMMITTEE on Public Enterprise (COPE) Chairman D.E.W. Gunasekera has called for the appointment of special accounting services to promote maintenance of accounts and professionalism. One can only highlight this as a big step in the right direction.
Media reports indicate that as much as Rs. 19 billion has been mismanaged by the 229 organisations monitored in 16 months, leading one to question: What steps will the Government take to minimise these excesses?
If previous COPE reports are any indication, this one too will face no action and lay gathering dust. However, it gives a glimpse of how deeply-embedded corruption, mismanagement and wastage are in the public system.
Despite declining to reveal the amount of wastage, Gunasekera admitted that it was essential for the public to consider the report as an “eye-opener” since COPE is not empowered to take legal action against any of these organisations.
In the preface of the document, which was released to the media, COPE outlines several recommendations, including updating corporate plans, having well-planned procurement documents and efficient audit and management committees as well as tabling of annual reports. Unsatisfactory recovery of debts and funds from retired officers, breach of agreements and wastage of public money due to legal issues were all highlighted in the report.
Loans between Government institutions include Rs. 10 million owed by Mihin Lanka to Rupavahini, Rs. 50 million owed by Sri Lanka Ports Authority to Ceylon Shipping Corporation, non-payment of interest by Mihin Lanka to Airport and Aviation services on a Rs. 500 million loan and Rubber Manufacturing and Export Corporation owing Rs. 115 million to People’s Bank and Rs. 1.4 billion to the Treasury, the report states.
Universities have also lost millions. Peradeniya University (Rs. 105 million), Hector Kobbekaduwa Research Institute (Rs. 11 million), Open University (Rs. 40 million), Moratuwa University (Rs. 17 million) and Sri Jayawardenapura (Rs. 69 million) were the noteworthy ones. Moreover, the Open University is guilty of spending millions to construct buildings on land they did not have clear ownership of. It is indeed disturbing that institutions that are tasked with instilling education and ethics in Sri Lanka’s future generation cannot seem to get their own act together.
In the State Mortgage and Investment Bank, a number of loans had been defaulted after paying only one or two instalments. Rupavahini had taken no effort to recover Rs. 42 million for use of airtime from various parties.
Loss-making institutions for 2010 were numbered at 48, including Sri Lanka Tea Board, State Pharmaceutical Corporation, National Child Protection Authority, CPC, CEB, Mahaweli Authority, Mihin Lanka, Sri Lanka Ports Authority, Samurdhi Authority, Sri Lanka Transport Board, Disaster Management Centre, Road Development Authority, Urban Development Authority and even National Enterprise Development Authority.
COPE has called on the internal auditor and the Treasury to be more vigilant of the funds that are disbursed and accounted by them. Abandonment of projects, underutilisation of assets and outdated procedures were also outlined in a chunky document. A professional accounting service would only be a start to minimising wastage.
It is therefore clear that action must be taken to name and shame the officials and politicians who are responsible for this gross wastage. The public must hold them accountable and demand mechanisms through which they can be brought to book or the plague of corruption will malign Sri Lanka forever.