Parliament | Daily News


Previous governments never attempted to move NAB: PM

Allegations are levelled against the Good Governance Government for delaying the National Audit Bill, but the previous governments had not even attempted to move the Bill, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said.

He was initiating the parliamentary debate on the National Audit Bill when it was taken up yesterday for debate after it was postponed several times.

The National Audit Bill was a key pledge of the Good Governance Government to be adopted within the first 100 days of it assuming the power.

The National Audit Commission is an independent commission mentioned in the 19th Amendment to the Constitution.

“When I became the Prime Minister in 2003, I tried to bring in the Bill, but was unable to. The former government had not even made an attempt to bring in the Bill,” the Prime Minister said.

“President Maithripala Sirisena took measures to bring in the Audit Bill. So far, no one else has done it. Everyone had the opportunity to bring in the Bill but they did not. The President also brought in the Right to Information Bill in addition to this one," he said.

The Audit Bill was presented on several occasions and the President, Prime Minister, Ministers and the judiciary have constitutional powers. We are now working under the parliamentary powers. An audit bill is an important factor of Parliament. Some countries have a controller in this regard. Independence in an audit is very vital for the transparency and productivity of the State administration,” the Prime Minister said.

Mattala Airport will not be sold: Nimal Siripala

The Government will not sell the Mattala Airport to any foreign investor, Transportation and Civil Aviation Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva yesterday assured.

Minister De Silva made the observation joining the adjournment motion moved by the JO on the joint venture between India and Sri Lanka over the Mattala Airport.

The government expects to develop the Airport via a joint venture and turn it to a profit making establishment, he said.

The government will also act with utmost transparency when entering into the joint venture, Minister De Silva said.

The agreement between India and Sri Lanka over the Airport will be put to Parliament after obtaining the Cabinet approval, Minister De Silva said. "Whatever the decisions made, the agreement will go through Parliament, he said.

The agreement will not in anyway jeopardise the national security, Minister De Silva assured.

He said the agreement will most probably be fixed for 40 years. "Unlike the previous government that signed 99 years lease agreements."

"Bringing in foreign investment should not be considered a crime. We will ensure the national security and the sovereignty of the country. The Mattala Airport has incurred Rs. 20 BN losses up to now," Minister De Silva said.

Referring to the allegations made by Opposition MPs, Minister De Silva observed that their comments are mostly political slogans. "We have served this country for a long time under different governments. We will not allow any harm come to this country from any foreign investment,." he said.

He said the government will not allow India even to bring in Indian air traffic controllers to work at the Airport.

Minister De Silva said the 70-30 per cent joint venture over the airport is a "good business deal. 70 per cent of the debts we have on this airport will be paid by the partner of the agreement."

Minister De Silva said the government advertised an expression of interest with regard to the Mattala Airport business venture. "Six companies responded including China and India. Many of the other investors were interested in establishing Flying schools. Indian proposal was the most promising among all others," he explained.

Transportation and Civil Aviation Deputy Minister Ashoka Abeysinghe joining the debate said the term used by the Joint Opposition when moving the adjournment motion is incorrect. "You have said it is on the selling of the Mattala Airport. But we are not selling it. So the terminology itself is wrong. This is not an outright sale, like you did under the previous regime,." he said.

State Minister Abeysinghe said the Mattala Airport incurs a annual loss of Rs. 1700 MN. "How do you expect us to pay these debts? We are paying these debts from the income by the Katunayake Bandaranaike International Airport. We have to pay the debts for 15 years. So a joint venture as this is of utmost importance," he said.

‘Honest public servants do not have to fear NAC’

Honest public servants do not have to fear the National Audit Act (NAC), Finance and Media Deputy Minister Lasantha Alagiyawanna yesterday said joining the debate on the National Audit Bill.

“We are taking up a very important bill today. Some people allege that this will hinder the development of the country. It is a wrong interpretation of the Audit Act. I find many public servants are very promising. They have been extremely dedicated to develop the country," he said.

"While many public servants execute their duties to their best of abilities, a few of them go astray. Because of these persons, the development is hindered. Honest public servants should not fear the Audit Act. We should not embrace fears of a minority in corruption. We would be able to use all the money saved by the Audit Act to develop the country,” Deputy Minister Alagiyawanna said. The Deputy Minister said it was wrong to criticise any step taken to strengthen the Auditor General’s Department. "A solid Audit Act will strengthen Parliament as well," he said.

TNA demands to repeal PCs (A) Act No. 17 of 2017

The TNA demands that the Provincial Councils (Amendment) Act No. 17 of 2017 be repealed immediately enabling the holding of the Provincial Council Elections without further delay if the government fails to bring in reforms for the Act within next two months.

TNA MP MA Sumanthiran will present it to Parliament today as an adjournment motion.

The motion to be moved in the House for debate is as follows:

“Whereas the terms of office of three Provincial Councils came to an end in October 2017.

And whereas no election to the three councils have been conducted to date owing to the fact that the Provincial Council Elections Act was amended to introduce reforms to the electoral process.

And whereas three more Provincial Councils will end their respective terms of office by October 2018.

No election to any Provincial Council can be held due to the fact that the electoral reforms are not yet complete.

An urgent priority has arisen to complete the electoral reforms, so that the franchise of the people of the several provinces is not denied any further.

We urge the government to complete the electoral reforms to the Provincial Councils Election laws immediately without any further delay.

And if it is not possible within the next two months, we urge that the Provincial Councils (Amendment) Act No. 17 of 2017 be repealed immediately, so that elections to the provincial councils can be held without any further postponement.”

Granting positionS to politically victimised:

Take legal actions against any discrepancies: Akila

Take legal actions against any discrepancies if any happened when principals and officials were appointed from the victims of political revenge, without disrupting the education sector, Education Minister Akila Viraj Kariyawasam said.

"They can either lodge a complaint at the Public Services Commission or take them before courts, he said. Minister Kariyawasam said the government would not allow persons who made “bunches of political appointments in the education sector” to disrupt the sector.

Teachers associations and other trade unions in the education sector launched an island-wide strike against granting positions to victims of political revenge.

Minister Kariyawasam said that granting of these positions was done transparently. The Minister said the Public Services Commission received 12,000 appeals from the victims and 1,018 were appointed.

AG must have powers to investigate political parties’ funds: Ranjan

The Auditor General should be vested with the power to audit queries on political parties' funds, Deputy Minister Ranjan Ramanayake yesterday said.

Minister Ramanayake said the AG should be given the power to directly order the IGP and the relevant police divisions to investigate if he comes across any financial crime.

Deputy Minister Ramanayake said the AG should be provisioned to examine political party funds as none of the parties reveal the money they get from various persons, and how they have spent these funds.

Joining in the debate on the National Audit Bill, Deputy Minister Ramanayake also said, “the Auditor General should be given powers to examine where the parties get funds for their election campaigns, how much and how they have spent them as none of the parties come up with these details".

“If so, the AG would have been able to carry out an investigation into The New York Times report that suggested that former President Mahinda Rajapaksa had received funds from a Chinese company for his presidential campaign. It would have also allowed to investigate the latest information that the Chinese Company which constructed the Hambantota Port had given USD 38 MN to Elle Gunawansa Thera and Rs. 18 million to the Pushpa Rajapaksa Foundation run by Basil Rajapaksa’s wife,” he said.

He said examples should be drawn from the powers vested to the Kenyan Auditor General.

National Audit Bill will not prevent corruption: Handunnetti

The National Audit Bill was finally passed in Parliament in a highly watered down state and people should not place great hope that the Bill would put an end to corruption, waste and fraud in the country, JVP-MP Sunil Handunnetti said.

He was participating yesterday in the debate on the National Audit Bill. It was postponed several times earlier but taken for debate yesterday. The National Audit Bill is a key pledge of the Good Governance Government to be adopted within the first 100 days of it assuming power.

JVP MP Sunil Handunnetti told Parliament that when the National Audit Bill was drafted initially, it contained many provisions to prevent corruption. “There was an undue delay and within that period, many potent factors of the Bill were stripped. Although it was portrayed as a strong arm against corruption, what we have today is a mere scarecrow. This is only a dummy of the original Bill. It has no powers,” MP Handunnetti said.

“It is the duty of Parliament to give life to this scarecrow. We have proposed 16 amendments to the Bill in this regard. If the government fails to incorporate them, then those waiting to rob the State institutions and continue on their path of corruption, need not worry about the Bill. If the Bill is passed in this state, even the Central Bank thieves will be given a maximum fine of Rs. 5,000. In the original Bill the maximum fine was Rs. 100,000 but that has now been reduced to Rs. 5,000," he said. "That happened because of the amendments brought in by the government. The worst of the bill is it contains provisions to narrow down the scope of the Auditor General. Several subjects have been taken out from his auditing scope. Could anyone against corruption and frauds expect anything worse than that?” he asked.

Responding to Handunnetti’s allegation, Higher Education Minister Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe said not to demean the Bill in this way. "The Bill will not overpower the existing Acts and their provisions. For the issues that you raise, the Penal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure still exist,” he said.


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