- Chairman says lack of resources and other practical reasons resulted in COPA being unable to properly carry out its duty
- COPA must annually probe 837 state institutions
- Present COPA able to complete task with the assistance of questionnaires
The Committee on Public Accounts (COPA) had failed to provide a satisfactory service since its establishment in 1978, COPA Chairman and Finance and Mass Media Deputy Minister Lasantha Alagiyawanna said yesterday.
The Minister made these remarks while addressing a media briefing held at the parliamentary complex.
“The aims and objectives of setting up COPA have not been achieved. It is not due to a fault of either COPA or Parliament but owing to practical reasons. The task of the Committee on Public Accounts is to probe the managerial efficiency and financial discipline of the Government, its ministries, departments, provincial councils and local authorities. This has to be done annually. Parliament passes budgetary allocations for those institutions every year. The institutions should be probed annually. There are 837 institutions. Given the practical reasons, such as the number of days per year and number of sitting days of Parliament, COPA simply cannot achieve its objective of probing all those 837 institutions,” the Minister said.
However, the Minister noted that under his leadership, the committee had been able to inspect all 837 state institutes for the financial year 2016 through the use of questionnaires.
“We sent questionnaires to these state institutes to expedite the process. The responses sent back to us were verified again by the Auditor General’s Department. That was the first time such a task had ever been achieved. For the 10-year period from 1994 to 2004 only one institution had been investigated. From 2004 to 2010 again only one institution was probed. For the past 37 years only 400 institutions had been investigated. For the past two and half years we managed to investigate 225 institutions by summoning them before COPA,” he said.
He went on to say that COPA would now look to implement measures to prevent financial misappropriation. “Our committee system currently conducts only financial postmortems of fraud and corruption. But we intend to change that situation and to take measures to prevent the recurrence of financial misappropriation,” he said. Meanwhile, COPA member JVP MP Nihal Galapatti said that the Committee would also look to set up a mechanism to inform the Attorney General of instances of corruption and fraud detected by COPA in order to take legal action.
COPA is one of two parliamentary watchdog committees on public finance, with the other being the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE). It consists of 12 members nominated by the Committee of Selection and is tasked with examining the financial accounts of state institutions for financial misappropriation, fraud and corruption.