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Good Governance - AccountabilityGood Governance demands Accountability, but there is little understanding of the various dimensions of this concept. The first and most obvious one is Financial Accountability, and one vital commitment of this government is to strengthen audit mechanisms.

But formal requirements alone are not sufficient. We must strengthen the powers of those agencies that can hold functionaries accountable on the strength of audit reports.

The first of these is Parliament, and that is why I have striven over the last couple of years to make sure that the Public Accounts Committee and the Committee on Public Enterprises are effective. A couple of weeks ago the Standing Orders Committee agreed to recommend to the House the suggestion I had put forward, that the reports of these committees shall be

‘laid before Parliament and sent to the Minister in charge of the subject of Finance who shall within one month respond to the Report and indicate which recommendations may be accepted with a time frame for implementation. Explanations will be provided with regard to recommendations which cannot be implemented with a description of what remedial action will be taken instead to deal with issues raised.

Following such a response, the Report shall be discussed by Parliament, and after amendments if appropriate shall be approved, whereupon the recommendations in such report shall be deemed to be recommendations to the Government which shall be responsible for implementing the same and reporting back to Parliament within a period of six months. The Speaker will ensure that such reports are furnished on time, and will raise any delays with the Head of the Executive.’

All this seems well and good. The Executive which spends money must listen to the Legislative power which authorizes expenditure and monitors it. As the Secretary General of Parliament noted, the Legislature should not tell the Executive what to do, and that is why we left it open for the Executive to explain why it cannot implement our recommendations. But, while we must be sympathetic to any difficulties it points out, we have the power to insist, and our recommendations are then mandatory – though again, if they find these impossible to implement, they can report accordingly.

The problem now, though, is that I do not know whether we will have the capacity in Parliament to ensure that these guidelines are followed. No one from the UNP was present at the meeting and it is doubtful that John Amaratunga, who has been the chief UNP representative at such meetings, can even understand what is needed. He was always genial when I pointed out the need for Standing Order Amendments, and agreed to my suggestions, but his incapacity to take anything further is not something for which one can hold him responsible, given the gifts with which God has endowed him.

Wijedasa Rapakasa is also it seems a member of the Committee, and he certainly can understand, but he had not attended any previous meetings. This time I was told he was abroad, and I hope he comes to the next meeting, but he may well be too busy, having one of the more important portfolios in government.

The SLFP leadership did not turn up either, though the party was represented by the Deputy Speaker who does at least understand the issues involved. Fortunately we also had Dinesh Gunawardena and Mr Sumanthiran, who are both very sharp, plus the highly principled Ajith Kumara, and the Deputy Chairman of Committees, who is also keen to learn. Sadly I do not think the Speaker is in a position to teach him. Read the rest of this entry »

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Rajiva Wijesinha

April 2015
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