TISL challenges Public Financial Management Bill in Supreme Court

Saturday, 8 June 2024 01:19 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

The Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL) has filed legal action on Wednesday in the Supreme Court challenging the Public Financial Management Bill, highlighting concerns related to public procurement.

The petition (SC SD 77/2024) points out that Clause 32 of the Bill seriously weakens the controls on public procurement, thereby enhancing the corruption risk and weakening the level playing field.

The Bill was published in the Gazette on 10 May and presented to Parliament for the first reading on 22 May. Clause 32 (3) grants the Finance Minister the discretion to exempt State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) from compliance with the National Procurement Guidelines, while Clause 32 (4) permits Provincial Councils to adopt their own procurement guidelines.

TISL seeks a Supreme Court determination that these provisions related to procurement violate Article 3 (Sovereignty of the people) and Article 12 (Right to equal protection of the law) of the Constitution. 

The petition, filed in the public interest, names the Attorney General as the respondent.

“The National Procurement Guidelines are issued with the approval of the Cabinet of Ministers to enhance the transparency of the Government procurement process, minimise delays, and obtain the most financially advantageous and qualitatively best services and supplies for the nation... The level of corruption and bribery in Sri Lanka does not justify a relaxation or loosening of the oversight and protection against such risks,” the petition emphasises.

The petition cites the Report of the Governance Diagnostic Assessment of Sri Lanka, conducted by the Sri Lankan Government with technical assistance from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). This report identifies that SOEs and procurement are high risk areas for corruption, with a history of serious abuses of power and misuse of public resources. The report highlights the pertinent need to tighten controls and enhance the transparency and accountability in public procurement. 

TISL asserts that the aforesaid provisions of the Bill do not cumulatively strengthen accountability, oversight, or the management of public funds, as envisaged as the purpose of this Bill. 

The case will be taken up for consideration on Monday (10 June).

Full petition: https://www.tisrilanka.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/06/SCSD772024.pdf