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The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) charged that the new Cabinet Sub-Committee appointed to look into the Draft of the National Audit Bill (NAB) have made proposals, which, according to independent experts, would dilute the core principles of the said Bill and would undermine the independence of the Auditor General.

Director of Policy and Programmes at the AHRC and the Asian Legal Resource Centre, Basil Fernando called for the Draft of the NAB to be placed before the public.

The Sub-Committee is made up of Ministers Sarath Amunugama, Rauf Hakeem, Anura Priyadharshana Yapa and Ravi Karunanayake.

The Draft NAB shows that the Sub-Committee does not agree with giving the Auditor General the authority to submit its budget directly, he noted, adding that the authority to make such a submission, which is considered an essential aspect of the financial independence of the Auditor General’s office, is a principle that is now followed in most countries.

The Sub-Committee is also opposed to providing an individual fund to the Auditor General’s Department on the mistaken premise that public service institutions are not allowed to have such a fund, he explained, noting that many other Departments such as the Tax Department, Customs Department, and the Attorney General’s Department possessed such funds, the purpose of which was for creating the possibility for the Auditor General to have qualified professionals who are able to carry out the functions authentically.

The Sub-Committee is also of the view that internal audit plans being approved by the Auditor General are against the principles of internal audit, he remarked, adding that in fact, even now, Section 13 of the Finance Act, No. 38 of 1971 and Section 134(2) of the Financial Regulations provide for exactly the same.

The Sub-Committee is of the view that there is a need for a definition for a “qualified auditor” when, in fact, the term has been defined in Article 34(1) of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, he mentioned.