Govt to hold back Audit Bill Claiming AG Dept unions’ opposition

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By 2017-10-22

By Niranjala Ariyawansha

Citing strong opposition from the Auditor General's Department trade unions, the Government has decided to hold back the National Audit Bill, without submitting it for approval to the Parliament, a senior Government Spokesman told Ceylon Today.

He said that the Bill has been cut, chopped and diluted to the maximum by the Government. A powerful figure within the Government had warned the top officials of the AG's Department not to get caught to the Governments strategy aimed at ensuring that the Audit Bill is not adopted in Parliament.

Several leading figures in the Government have advised the Auditor General that the Audit Bill should be presented to Parliament even under the prevailing conditions.

"What we are trying to do is ensure a parliamentary debate on the essential amendments and the Draft Bill," several top officials of the AG's Department told Ceylon Today.

Under these circumstances, Attorney General Gamini Wijesinghe has taken steps to silence Trade Union opposition against the removal of the Attorney General's powers, to impose surcharges on State officials and assigning that task to Ministry Secretaries and the President.

Last week, Trade Unions claimed that by removing the AG's power to impose surcharges and assigning it to Ministry Secretaries and the President, the Government has completely destroyed the concept of Independent Commissions which was expected through the 19th Amendment of the Constitution.

"If the AG or the Trade Unions try to express strong opposition to this Draft Bill, the Government has planned to use that in its favour. The Government is now preparing to say that, since the Trade Unions are not in support of the Draft Bill, we are presenting this to Parliament," the officials added.

Under these circumstances the AG has requested the Trade Unions to avoid expressing their views through the media regarding the Audit Draft Bill.

Meanwhile, responding to an inquiry from Ceylon Today, Chairman of COPE and JVP Member of Parliament Sunil Handunnetti challenged the Government to present the Audit Bill in parliament, if possible.

"We will definitely defeat this Audit Bill which was cut and chopped in the manner required to cover up the thefts of the Government," he stressed.

Minister Rajitha Senaratne said, on the day following the Cabinet meeting of 10 October, that Cabinet approval had been given for the National Audit Bill.

However, responding to this news, the Trade Unions of the AG's Department said, on 13 October, that what the Cabinet had approved was only the amendments made by the Cabinet Sub-Committee and not the Audit Bill itself.

On 13 October, co-convener of the Joint Audit Services Collective Attorney-at-Law K. N. M. Kumarasinghe told Ceylon Today that, as a result, legal action would be taken against the Cabinet for misleading the AG's Department, the media and people of an entire country, by spreading the false rumour that the Audit Draft Bill had been approved by the Cabinet.

However, the Government has not responded, up to now, to the accusation of the AG's Department that the Audit Draft Bill had not been approved by the Cabinet.

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