JVP questions Fin. Min. preparation of March-May VoA while P’ment stands dissolved

Thursday, 7 May 2020 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


  • Ex-MP Handunnetti questions how VoA was included in Pre-election Budgetary Position Report 2020 sans P’ment approval
  •  Says Art. 150(3) does not allow President to withdraw funds unless new Parliament convened
  • President maintains he is using powers under Art. 150(3) to meet expenses via Vote on Account bill

The JVP yesterday questioned how a Vote on Account for March-May 2020 has been included in the Pre-election Budgetary Position Report 2020, issued by the Finance Ministry under the Fiscal Management (Responsibility) Act, without Parliamentary approval.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa
Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa

Former JVP Sunil Handunnetti said that the Report states that a Vote on Account for three months commencing from 6 March 2020 has been prepared, and questioned how this could have been done when Parliament was dissolved on 2 March, and there was no functioning Legislature to approve such a VoA..

“No one can prepare such a VoA and authorise the use of money from the Treasury without Parliamentary approval. This is illegal,” Handunnetti said at a press conference .

He said Article 150 (3), which authorises the withdrawal of sums from the Consolidated Fund, only applies until the expiry of a period of three months from the date on which the new Parliament is summoned to meet.

“When there is no new Parliament and when the old Parliament has been dissolved, there is no provision in the law for the President to use money from the Consolidated Fund. The Treasury is not anyone’s private property. If that is the case, any citizen can get money from it. What we are seeing are dictatorial methods being used to spend public funds,” Handunnetti charged.

The Pre-election Budgetary Position Report 2020 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.”

The report, released on 23 March bears the signature of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, who is also the Finance Minister, as well as Secretary to the Treasury R.S. Attygalle.

The issue of using unauthorised funds has been raised by several others in Opposition, with former Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera writing to the President, requesting him to reconvene Parliament so that the necessary public expenditure can be approved by the House as required by law.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa however maintains that he is authorised to withdraw funds in instances where no Budget has been passed in an election year and Parliament stands dissolved.

“If the Appropriation Bill was not passed at the time of the dissolution of Parliament, then under Article 150(3) of the Constitution, President is empowered to meet the expenses via a Vote on Account bill for up to 03 months of convening the new Parliament. This procedure has been followed in all previous instances when the Parliament was dissolved before passing the Appropriation Bill and is well within the legal frame,” Secretary to the President P.B. Jayasundara said in response to the letter Samaraweera sent the President on 28 March.