COPA pushes for mea culpa among Govt. institutions

Wednesday, 11 February 2015 00:41 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

  • COPA investigates 48 state entities
  • Post-facto analysis criticised
  • Secretaries advised to interact with Auditor General to find solutions prior 
  • Opposition commends Government for proposing a new accounting policy Act

By Ashwin Hemmathagama Our Lobby Correspondent The twin theme, which creates the balance between the political Executive and the administrative Executive, giving Parliament control over public finance, came into effect yesterday after the second report of the Committee on Public Accounts (COPA) was moved in the Parliament. This report covers the findings and recommendations of the committee on 48 Government institutions - 17 ministries, 15 departments and 10 District Secretariats - examined during the period from 17 January 2012 to 25 October 2012. During this time the Committee examined 48 Government institutions based on the audit paragraphs reported in the Auditor General’s reports from 2005-2010. Moving the report, CoPA Chairman Dr. Sarath Amunugama said that accountability lay at the heart of good governance. “In a democracy the Parliament represents the people, and the Government irrespective of the political system is accountable to the Parliament. The control over public finance is vested in the Parliament by Section 148 of the Constitution, which is now in operation. The COPA is the most significant arm of executing this power as an oversight committee. However, what we have is a post-fact analysis system," he said. "The new officers start from square one with less experience in the matters being discussed. We discussed these issues at ESCAP, World Bank and ADB workshops and seminars. Lessons from such participation can be discussed when we debate this in the House,” Amunugama added. “Mostly, the administration and the Secretary do not understand the value of the accounts. They have neglected the financial responsibility vested in them. For example, after conducting an audit prior to sending it to the Auditor General, they discuss matters with the Secretary of the institution. This is an effort to find responses from the Secretary to fill the gaps. At most occasions such discussion is not taking place. Sometimes it is passed on to a minor officer who has little interest in solving the problem. Ultimately, it becomes a chapter in the Auditor General’s report. As a result unimportant or easily resolvable matters end up in this report. “It is better if the Auditor General and the respective Secretaries resolve these prior to putting it in the final report, which we work on. I congratulate the Government on proposing a new accounting policy Act,” he added. COPA plays a very important role in assisting respective Parliaments to ensure accountability over public finance. The primary duty committee is to review the audit reports, which had been presented in Parliament by the Auditor General, as well as the performance of the Government institutions and examine respective public officers to ensure accountability. COPA reports its findings and make its recommendations to Parliament from time to time. One of the main objectives of COPA is to examine whether the administration structure of the Government has satisfactorily carried out the responsibilities entrusted upon these institutions efficiently, effectively and transparently during the period they were 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 in government institutions with a view to correct them to see whether the Government can obtain maximum return on investments.