* Key pledge by Yahapalanaya Govt.
* Ratified by Speaker on July 18

The National Audit Act will come in to operation from August 1, 2018, fulfilling a key pledge given by the Yahapalana government in 2015.

President Maithripala Sirisena in an Extraordinary Gazette notification announced last Thursday (26) that the National Audit Act which was passed in Parliament with amendments this month will come into effect from next Wednesday (August 1).

Speaker Karu Jayasuriya ratified the National Audit Act on July 18, 2018.

“By virtue of the powers vested in me by Section 1 (2) of the National Audit Act, No.19 of 2018, I, Maithripala Sirisena, President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka do by this order, appoint August 01, 2018 to be the date on which the Provisions of Parts I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII and IX of the aforesaid Act shall come into operation.” The extraordinary Gazette Notification issued on July 26, stated. The Act provides for the powers, duties and functions of the Audit Servicing Commission. It also provides for the establishment of the National Audit Office and the Sri Lanka State Audit Service. It specifies the Auditor General’s role over public finance as well.

The Bill was presented to Parliament on April 3, 2018.

Following the enactment, the Audit Service Commission, which has not been operative for over two and a half years, will come to life. The Audit Service Commission has powers to appoint committees to assist the Commission.

Under Article 153A (1) of the Constitution, an Audit Service Commission will be appointed to ensure the independence of the Audit Commission. This Commission will consist of the Auditor General and four other members appointed by the President on the recommendation of the Constitutional Council.

A new Audit Office is also sanctioned by the new Act, to assist the Auditor General to discharge his duties and responsibilities.

The Speaker has powers to appoint an independent auditor to audit the Audit Office.

The Audit Bill was revised over 23 times, mainly due to contention over its surcharge provision. The provision provides for “a recovery of an amount overpaid to a public servant, or a recoupment of any loss caused to Government for which that officer is held responsible.”

This provision has been diluted to vest the authority to impose surcharge back in the Chief Accounting Officers (Ministry Secretaries/Department Heads), and not the Auditor General. In cases where the CAO has been implicated, the power to impose the surcharge lies with the Treasury Secretary.

A Surcharge Appeal Committee, not less than five members, with experience in the fields of auditing, law, and public finance management, will be appointed by the Constitutional Council to hear and determine appeals by any person against whom a surcharge has been imposed.

UNP MP Professor Ashu Marasinghe, responding to the Daily News with reference to the commencement of the National Audit Act’s operations, pointed out that the Yahapalana government has fulfilled a landmark pledge given in the 2015 mandate.

“This will magnify the fact that this Yahapalana government abides by its pledges to the people. We are trying to establish a political culture that is people-friendly. Our aim is to bring in proper and responsible public finance management to this country,” Professor Marasinghe said.

Professor Marasinghe also said that a new Budget Office will soon be established as well. The Budget Office will monitor if the Audit Act is being implemented properly while also monitoring the utilization of annual budget allocations. 

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