Reconstitution of COPE, COPA in limbo


Bid to scuttle probes alleged

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The reappointment of two key parliamentary watchdog committees, COPE (Committee on Public Enterprises) and COPA (Committee on Public Accounts) has been further delayed for want of a consensus among political parties on who should head them.In spite of earlier indications that the ruling SLPP might go ahead with the original plan to give leadership of COPE and COPA, in addition to that of the Committee on Public Finance (COPF) to the Opposition, the government seems to have second thoughts, political sources said.

Late last month, SJB heavyweight, Dr. Harsha de Silva, received the appointment as Chairman of the COPF, a post previously held by SLPP MP Anura Priyadarshanaya Yapa.All other parliamentary committees, except the COPE and the COPA, had been reconstituted, following the opening of the third session of the ninth Parliament on 03 August.

President of the Sri Lanka Audit Service Association (SLASA), Prasad Prasanna, yesterday (04), said that the country was in such a desperate financial situation, the government and the Opposition should not delay taking tangible measures to restore economic stability. The parliamentary watchdog committees would have to play a significant role in the anti-corruption drive, the official said, expressing concern over the inordinate delay in setting up the COPE and the COPA.  The SLASA Chief said so in response to The Island query regarding unbridled public sector corruption.

Prasad Prasanna said that the SLASA was yet to receive a response from President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s Office to their letter, dated 15 Aug, requesting the re-appointment of Prof. Charitha Herath and Prof. Tissa Vitharana as heads of the COPE and the COPA, respectively.

“The SLASA really appreciates the stand taken by Governor, CBSL, Dr. Nanadalal Weerasinghe, as regards the accountability on the part of lawmakers and Parliament as the country struggled to cope up with an unprecedented crisis.

We sincerely hope Dr. Weerasinghe’s timely intervention would make a difference,” Prasad Prasanna said.Sources said that both the government and the Opposition had left Professors Charitha Herath and Tissa Vitharana out of their nomination lists. SLPP General Secretary Sagara Kariyawasam told The Island that those who declared themselves as independent members couldn’t expect the government to nominate them. They shouldn’t expect a privileged status after having quit the government parliamentary group, Kariyawasam said.

Prof. Herath declined to comment on the inordinate delay in reconstituting the two watchdog committees. However, he stressed the need to continue the work initiated during the previous sessions of the ninth Parliament. Dr. Weerasinghe’s views couldn’t be ignored by political parties, Prof. Herath said.Some sources attributed the delay in reconstituting the two watchdog committees to Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena’s visit to New Delhi and the presentation of an interim Budget by President Ranil Wickremesinghe, in his capacity as the Finance Minister.

SLASA President Prasad Prasanna urged the government not to suppress investigations undertaken by the COPE. It would be a grave mistake, on the part of the government, to derail watchdog committees as such a course of action would cause further deterioration of public sector finance.

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