Upgrading IT systems at crucial loss-making Government institutions will help them reduce the red in their balance sheets, said an official of the Committee on Public Accounts (CoPA) yesterday while presenting the latest report, which advocates that all departments go digital within the next two years.
Investigating 38 institutions during the first quarter of 2016, CoPA has identified 238 issues. According to CoPA Chairman Lasantha Alagiyawanna, Sri Lanka Customs and the Registrar of Motor Vehicles have the worst IT systems.
“We have identified many shortcomings at these institutions. Officers will be re-summoned to soon discuss the issues in detail. They are accountable for these issues. There are 842 state institutions in total. The time limitations have prevented us from summoning all these establishments to CoPA. However, a parliamentary debate will further discuss the issues in each establishment we have examined and will decide remedies,” he said.
CoPA also proposes a special computer network linking the 842 state enterprises. “There are 16 institutions, including the Department of Inland Revenue, the Department of Motor Traffic, the Registrar of Companies and the Department of Immigration and Emigration, which will be in this proposed network. The information and data maintained within each institution will be helpful for any other establishment, including the CID and the FCID,” he added.
CoPA plays a vital role in assisting respective Parliaments to ensure accountability for public finance. The primary duty of the committee is to review the audit reports which have been presented in Parliament by the Auditor General as well as the performance of Government institutions and assess respective public officers to ensure accountability. CoPA periodically reports its findings and makes recommendations to Parliament.
One of the main objectives of CoPA is to examine whether the administrative structure of the Government has satisfactorily carried out the responsibilities entrusted to these institutions efficiently, effectively and transparently during the period they are expected to complete those projects, programs and other administrative activities, in accordance with Government rules and regulations.
The Auditor General invariably assists the committee in its investigation. The responsibility of the Auditor General’s Department is to identify lapses, irregularities and mismanagement at Government institutions with a view to correct them to see whether the Government obtains maximum return on its investment. (AH)
New Customs legislation to get P’ment approval
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe yesterday assured Parliament that the Government would consult all stakeholders and present the new Customs Ordinance Draft Bill to the House before it was passed.
Wickremesinghe, while assuring the House that the changes would be discussed prior to being enacted, said: “We have no intention of discreetly drafting a Customs Ordinance.
The Customs Ordinance is an old legislation and matters will be discussed in detail before preparing the new draft. We are unable to include the use of the Internet to the existing ordinance, which is old legislation. So we will amend the existing ordinance. Ultimately this Bill will reach the Parliament regardless of who drafted it.”
Assuring a fair hearing during the drafting process, the Prime Minister said: “We have to consider the views of Customs, the ministry, the private sector, the trade chambers and freight forwarders. Recently I met a new group, the agriculture exporters, they also have issues. We will have to consult all stakeholders. We will have to upgrade the existing law to bring in IT.” (AH)