- Cites poorly maintained public accounts as main reason
- Change in public sector mindset and attitude vital for transformation
- Many weaknesses in application of public sector accounting standards last year
Sri Lanka’s overall liabilities and available assets are still unknown due to the poor maintenance of public accounts by accountants, the country’s top auditor said.
“The government is having so many problems in connection to the current financial situation. Meanwhile, nobody knows the total liabilities and the assets available in the country.
That’s the responsibility of accountants. The public accounts have not been properly maintained, that’s the biggest issue today,” Auditor General Gamini Wijesinghe said. Wijesinghe was addressing the second Best Annual Report & Accounts Awards for Public Sector organised by the Association of Public Finance Accountants of Sri Lanka (APFASL), the public sector wing of CA Sri Lanka. His sentiments were echoed by the Finance Commission of Sri Lanka Chairman Uditha Palihakkara who said that a change in the mindset and attitude of public sector is required in order to develop the country.
“There are nine provinces, and if you ask how much the country has invested throughout the years or even in one particular year in one particular project, no one knows about it. We must move beyond the traditional concepts of accounting with changes in the economy, changes in technology and changes in the market; that should be spirit of the profession” he stressed.
Palihakkara noted that serving in various fields in the private sector over the years, he has been struggling to change the mindset and attitudes of public sector workers.
Wijesinghe emphasised that a rapid transformation is required to improve the public sector accounting standards, as the attempts to gradually improve the public sector accounting has not been properly implemented over the last two decades. However, he noted that there has been some improvement due to the constant pressure by the Auditor General’s Department on public entities to improve accounting and reporting standards.
“In the Auditor General’s Department, we try our best to transform the public sector with good accounting and reporting standards. With our pressure, it has come up to some standards,” he said.
Despite the progress, he noted that there were so many weaknesses in application of public sector accounting standards last year.
Wijesinghe also pointed out that there’s a large vacuum of accountants at the local government and provincial council levels, which is required to be addressed immediately.
He stressed that the public sector is a vital component of the economy; hence it should be a responsibility of all the relevant stakeholders to develop the public sector on par with the private sector.
“The private sector cannot survive without public sector, and that’s the bitter truth,” he said.
Wijesinghe further said that an improvement of the quality of public accounts would lead to a considerable overall improvement in the professionalism in the public sector. (NF)