Good governance activist and retired private sector executive, Chandra Jayaratne has written to the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Sri Lanka (CA Sri Lanka) to come forward to protect the independence of the country’s Auditor General (AG), who is a member of the institute.
“My appeal arises from 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,” Jayaratne said in his letter. Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake recently slammed Auditor General Gamini Wijesingha in parliament for giving a report relating to the Central Bank treasury bond transactions in the last eight years to the Parliamentary Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) without giving it to him first.
“He (Wijesingha) has gone
beyond his mandate,” Karunanayake told parliament.
However, Wijesingha said a copy of the report was sent to the finance minister also and Karunanayake acknowledged receiving the said report in writing. The report was also immediately posted on the Auditor General Department’s website.
Wijesingha told the media that his duty is to make the dealings of the government as transparent as possible and he has no intention in protecting the confidentiality of the report, specially at a time when the Right to Information (RIT) Act is in force.
The position of the Auditor General is a high post appointment made in terms of Article 153 of the Constitution by the president, with the concurrence of the Constitutional Council.
Article 153 D (1) of the Constitution 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.”
Hence, Jayaratne urged the CA Sri Lanka to write to President Maithripala Sirisena asking him to “publicly caution those who are culpable of attempting to criticize and pressure/influence the Auditor General in violation of the constitution.”
Jayaratne also asked the institute to write to the Constitutional Council for inquiry and advice to the president.
He further urged the CA Sri Lanka to write to Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who is 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.
Jayaratne also recommended the CA Sri Lanka writing to the Speaker of parliament, as the head of the legislature to whom the Auditor General reports to and accountable for public finance, to caution the members of parliament to refrain from any actions that denigrate the office of the Auditor General.