Chandra J’s appeal to safeguard Auditor General’s independence, integrity and professional position

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4 February 2017

President and Members of the Council,

Institute of Chartered Accountants of Sri Lanka,

30 A Malalaserere Mawatha,

Colombo 7.

Dear Sirs,

An appeal to safeguard the independence, integrity and professional position of the Auditor General

I write this appeal to you, this day our nation celebrates its 69th anniversary of Independence, under the governance of a regime committed to Yahapalanaya (Good Governance). My appeal arises from the public criticism, by some leaders in governance, of the Auditor General, challenging the integrity, independence, professionalism, and unbiased judgment of the holder of the office of the Auditor General. Such public criticism and associated pressure, challenges and may even have the effect of attempting to influence the independence and professionalism of the holder of the office of the Auditor General.

The position Auditor General is a high post appointment made in terms article 153 of the Constitution by the President, with the concurrence of the Constitutional Council. Article 153 D (1) reads as follows:

“A person who otherwise than in the course of his duty, directly or indirectly, by himself or through any other person, in any manner whatsoever, influences or attempts to influence any decision of the Commission, any member thereof or any officer of the Sri Lanka State Audit Service, shall be guilty of an offence and shall on conviction be liable to a fine not exceeding one hundred thousand rupees or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or to both such fine and imprisonment.”

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, being empowered for such appointment by the qualification as a professionally qualified member of the Institute. 

The present holder of the office is a member of the Institute and in addition highly qualified in several other areas, including economics.

The website of the Office of the Auditor General notes the following in relation to the Role, Responsibility and Independence of the Auditor General;

“The Auditor General through the Auditor General’s Department provides an independent review of the performance and accountability of the public sector institutions and reports to Parliament. The Auditor General’s Department aims to meet the needs and expectations of the Parliament, the executive and its clients and to add value to public sector performance and accountability. This independent review is thus performed to ensure the propriety, regularity and compliance with all the statutory and other regulatory requirements and the economy, efficiency and effectiveness of the operations.

The independence of the Auditor General is preserved to a great extent by the Constitution itself and the Article 153 of which states that”

I am sure you recognise that as a part of the accountability of the institute, you are duty bound to uphold and protect the integrity, independence, and professionalism of the institute and its members; and in an extended and stretched accountability, you are duty bound in the interest of the nation and its people, to protect the integrity, independence, professionalism, and unbiased judgment of the holder of the office of the Auditor General. 

This accountability must be discharged from an apolitical professional stand point, in the same manner as the advocacy and challenge the Institute recently had to adopt, to safeguard the professionalism, capability (knowledge/skills/attitudes and values), integrity and independence of professionals empowered by statute to undertake public audits in Sri Lanka.

In the context of the above accountability, I suggest that you take steps to advocate by writing to;

The President,  in his capacity as the Head of State and Head of Cabinet and required to uphold the Constitution and also the appointer of the Auditor General,  to publicly caution those who are culpable of attempting to criticise and pressure/influence the Auditor General in violation of the Constitution, to immediately cease such unacceptable actions; and if they have any formal complaints, grievances or instances of unprofessional conduct to make formal complaints, in terms of the applicable laws and regulations;

to the Constitutional Council, for inquiry and advice to the President

to the Institute of Chartered Accountants, for inquiry in terms of the Code Professional Conduct and Ethics, if there are any issues of purported due professional misconduct by the Auditor General,  a member of the Institute 

The Prime Minister, in his capacity as the leader of the political party whose members appear, as reported in the media, to possibly be associated with the pressure, criticism and influence exerted on the Auditor General, requesting him to advise such members, to immediately refrain from such deplorable conduct not in keeping with upholding the rule of law and good governance commitments.

The Speaker of Parliament, as the Head of the Legislature to whom the Auditor General reports to, and accountable for public finance, to caution members of the Parliament, to refrain from any actions that denigrate the Office of the Auditor General, being a key official supporting the Parliament in the discharge of its accountability for public finance.

Commissioners of the Right to Information Commission, to express an opinion whether the Auditor General, by purportedly, uploading on a website, at the time of release of any audit and other reports, would be inconsistent with the commitments expected from the Auditor General in terms of the entrenched provisions of the Constitution relating to Right to Information and also in the wider context of the objectives of the Right to Information Law applicable with effect from today.

I trust that this appeal will receive your immediate attention and affirmative action.

Yours sincerely,

Chandra Jayaratne

cc. President

Prime Minister

Speaker of Parliament

Leader of Opposition

Chairman and Members of the Constitutional Council

Chairman and Members of the Right to Information Commission

Chairman COPA/COPE

Auditor General

National Movement for Social Justice, Purawesi Balaya and FUTA – For similar advocacy action in terms of the Social Contract created by the present regime with the Movements on behalf of the voters prior to the elections held in 2015