Public Administration and Home Affairs
Minister Dr. Sarath Amunugama has called on those directly
handling public finances to evolve with the times and adapt
innovative methods to obtain high output and above all eliminate
fraud and malpractices.
The call made by the Minister for proper accounting practices
and transparency on the part of those entrusted with the
responsibility of handling public finance is a timely one
considering the present upheaval caused by the collapse of
However the crash cannot be attributed to obsolete accounting
practices since these high profile private sector concerns bore
the hallmark of the latest state of the art facilities. The real
reason for the crash was sharp practice and sleight of hand
methods that even bypassed the best accounting methods ever
invented. So it is the case of the calibre of the individuals
who are entrusted with the public funds that should come under
It goes without saying that had there been this element of
transparency in the dealing with depositors money coupled with
accountability, this calamitous situation could have been
averted and so much heartburn avoided. Transparency has today
become a much abused word which is loosely bandied about. It all
boils down to the question of integrity.
Addressing public sector accountants and auditors at an
international conference on “New Public Financial Management and
Public Accountability,” the Minister prevailed on the custodians
of public finances to ensure transparency and accountability so
that the public would get their money’s worth. He also stressed
on the need for proper follow up action after the release of
funds for public ventures in order to check malpractices.
Not only private Finance Companies, even certain Government
institutions recently came under scrutiny for questionable
transactions, the scandal at the Inland Revenue Department being
the most serious. Here too had proper supervision been exercised
from the outset this massive fraud could have been avoided.
The crux of the matter is no amount of innovative accounting
can put a lid on fraud if there is collaboration down the line.
With liberalisation and an unbridled commercial ethos all
scruples have been thrown to the wind.
Today any person or individual can be bought over for the
right price. This is the malady that has today plagued not just
the State Sector but the entire socio-economic fabric of the
country, which has got rotten to the core.
The Auditor General himself has often pin pointed
questionable accounting practices in State concerns and even
passed strictures on those at the helm of these institutions.
Like the Minister said what is at stake is public funds and it
is incumbent that every rupee of these funds is accounted for if
the Government is to justify the various taxes imposed on the
What is needed therefore is a foolproof system to ensure
public funds are not squandered by unscrupulous persons placed
at the helm.
Harkening to the theme of the conference, the Minister called
on the accountants and auditors to be innovative and employ
modern practices in accounting so that loopholes could be
plugged while making optimum use of the public funds for the
public benefit. He said creating awareness of new public
financial management methods was vital to ensure transparency.
It has to be said here that the State Sector too has come a
long away from its obsolete methods and practices and now has
gone high tech in most of their operations. The best example in
this regard is the State Banks which in many ways have even
surpassed their private sector counterparts in the adaptation of
Sometimes even this sophistication allows for sleight of hand
methods which were difficult with earlier systems that had more
human supervision. Therefore in the end what counts is the
individual who is in charge, be it the Accountant or Financial
Manager. It is only to persons of unimpeachable integrity and
honesty and dedication that public funds should be entrusted.
Innovative methods can have their limits. It can cut both
ways. There is therefore a need to strike the right balance in
the use of innovation and more personalised supervision of
True, we have to be up to date with the ever evolving
novelties in almost all fields of endeavour. The downside though
is these too could be perverted in the hands of the wrong
person, as amply demonstrated in the drama of the failed finance