By Amrit Muttukumaru
By what perverse logic does Chandra Jayaratne described as a “good governance activist” expect a corrupt CA Sri Lanka to “safeguard the integrity” of the Auditor General H.M. Gamini Wijesinghe under attack by powerful vested interests threatened by his demand for accountability for alleged egregious wrongdoing?
He does so in his Independence Day letter to the President and Council of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Sri Lanka captioned “An appeal to safeguard the independence, integrity and professional position of the Auditor General” also copied to the President and Prime Minister of Sri Lanka.
In his letter he inter alia informs CA Sri Lanka, “I am sure you realise that the position of the Auditor General, is the most prestigious and responsible office a member of the Institute can hold.”
Chandra was made fully aware by this writer through ‘open’ letters in the media and e-mails of the ‘open and shut’ case of professional misconduct by the ‘Partners’ concerned of the Sri Lanka affiliates of PwC and Ernst & Young in the fraudulent privatisation of the Sri Lanka Insurance Corporation confirmed by (i) Supreme Court (ii) Parliament’s COPE (iii) Attorney-General and the failure of CA Sri Lanka and Sri Lanka Accounting and Auditing Standards Monitoring Board (SLAASMB) to hold those concerned accountable.
This is apart from CA Sri Lanka ‘Ethics’ Committee itself more than 10 years ago further to my complaint endorsing the findings of its Investigating ‘Panel’ of a prima-facie case of ‘Professional Misconduct’ by PwC and EY and ALL their Partners at the relevant period in the scandalous SLIC privatisation.
Not only did he not respond but more reprehensibly he has never referred to this ‘open and shut’ case in his regular missives in the media on good governance with emphasis on accountability.
Surely is there any need to inform Chandra Jayaratne and Auditor General Gamini Wijesinghe, both senior chartered accountants held out to be good governance activists, of this egregious professional misconduct?
Gamini Wijesinghe of whom much is expected and described by an influential section of the media as “fearless” and a “knight in shining armour” will definitely enhance his credibility and moral authority by demanding accountability for this ‘open and shut’ case. Previously he was Director General of SLAASMB.
While PwC (Indonesia and Sri Lanka) functioned as Consultant, ‘Investment Banking and Legal Advisory Services’ to the Government of Sri Lanka, EY (Sri Lanka) were the ‘Auditors’ to SLIC.
Earlier in another letter to President, CA Sri Lanka and Chairman, SLAASMB in the Daily Mirror of 25 October 2016, Chandra urged them to “introduce necessary regulatory reforms and oversight mechanisms, to assure upholding of professional standards, best practices, ethics”.
This is strange since all chartered accountants are aware that CA Sri Lanka established by Parliament by Act No. 23 of 1959 has the necessary regulations “to assure upholding of professional standards” and what is glaringly lacking is the WILL to uphold the same.
CA Sri Lanka
The ‘Supreme Court’ (SC FR Application No: 158/2007) in its landmark Judgment delivered on 4 June 2009, held the SLIC privatisation to be “illegal and invalid ab initio” and had ordered the removal “forthwith” of the auditors, EY. The judgment is also signed by incumbent Chief Justice Hon. K. Sripavan. (emphasis mine)
Not holding those concerned accountable violates with impunity Section 17 (2) (b) of CA Sri Lanka Act of Incorporation which clearly stipulates that when an ‘Investigating Committee’ appointed by the ‘Council’ “reports to the Council that a prima facie case of professional misconduct has been made out against a member, the Council shall appoint a disciplinary committee for the purpose of inquiring into the conduct of such member” (emphasis mine).
As for the SLAASMB, at the conclusion of its purported ‘investigation’ of this same fraudulent privatisation, I received the following farcical response as per its e-mail dated 28 November 2005:
“Whilst we appreciate the contribution made by the complainants, we are not in a position to keep the complainant informed of the progress of the investigation and the outcome of the investigation, as it would undermine our policy on releasing information to the public.”
This was signed by Gayani L. Perera, then Technical Manager and presently Deputy Director General.
W.A. Wijewardena, former Deputy Governor, Central Bank of Sri Lanka was Chairman, SLAASMB on this date (http://srilankaeconomicforum.org/weerakoon-wijewardena.html).
Under the ‘Partnership’ Law in Sri Lanka, ALL ‘Partners’ are ‘Jointly and severally’ liable for any wrongdoing. All Partners are aware of every audit and assignment. It is unethical for any ‘Partner’ to plead ignorance.
It is the responsibility of CA Sri Lanka to forthwith disclose the identity of those who were ‘Partners’ of PwC and EY at least three years prior to 11 April 2003 which is the date on which the fraudulent SLIC privatisation took place.
It is outrageous that some ‘Partners’ falling under this period have been appointed ‘Directors’ of ‘quoted’ companies and Banks. Some have even been appointed by CA Sri Lanka to its ‘Quality Assurance Board’ and inducted to its ‘Hall of Fame’! Such is the impunity.
In another recent article Chandra Jayaratne inter alia states: “Professionals are accountable for the destiny of Sri Lanka.” While agreeing with him, I ask him and other proponents of good governance such as ‘Friday Forum’ of which he is convener and Transparency International Sri Lanka of which he was a Director whether they are serious in combating corruption and abuse of power when the role of auditors is ignored? After all, are not chartered accountants and auditors the first line of defence against corruption in all entities dealing with financial resources?
Could the alleged Treasury bond scams have taken place without the complicity of professionals in the hierarchy of the Central Bank and Bank of Ceylon – lawyers, accountants and others?
Although activists talk the hind legs off a donkey on the evils of corruption and some get paid handsomely for doing so, they fail to bite the bullet by ‘naming and shaming’ errant professionals and bigwigs in the corporate sector complicit in the corruption of politicians.
My experience after several years of ‘struggle’ as the complainant to CA Sri Lanka is that there is a conspiracy involving influential sections of the political, corporate, professional, media and NGO establishments for a ‘cover-up’ due to ‘wheels within wheels’ within our largely ‘wheeler dealer’ economy. The perilous state of the economy and social fabric for which successive governments are responsible bear testimony to this assertion.