By Chandani Kirinde
Opposition MPs yesterday urged Speaker Karu Jayasuriya to overrule the Attorney General (AG) and release the forensic audit reports prepared as part of the investigation into the Central Bank bond scam.
The UNP and JVP MPs made the request after Jayasuriya informed the House when Parliament met last afternoon that he had consulted the AG, following a request by both Government and Opposition lawmakers to release the reports, but was told not to do so as several court cases in this connection were pending.
“I sought an opinion from the AG on this matter, and he has informed me in writing that as legal action has been instituted in connection with the bond scam and several more cases are to be filed, it is not prudent to release these reports to MPs at this point,” the Speaker informed the House.
Following the Speaker’s announcement, several Opposition MPs urged the Speaker to overrule the AG’s opinion and make the reports public.
JVP MP Bimal Ratnayake said that Parliament was not bound to follow the opinion of the AG to the letter and could even override the Supreme Court.
“There have been many precedents set where Parliament has disregarded the opinion of the AG. As a member of the Committee on Public Enterprises (CoPE) which investigated the Treasury bond scam, I demand that this forensic report be made available to all MPs,” Ratnayake said.
He stated that the public had the right to know the identities of those who looted the Central Bank and pocketed public funds.“Some names have already been published. The Presidential Commission probing the Treasury bond scam as well as the CoPE findings on this issue have been widely covered by the media. CoPE is not a court, but as an important Parliamentary Committee, it proposed the conduct of the forensic audit. It is as a result of CoPE’s directive that the forensic probe was conducted, not as a result of a court directive,” he said.
The JVP MP said that Rs. 900 million in public money was used to compile the reports, so the public had the right to know their content.
“The AG is entitled to his opinion, but we can make the report public. Otherwise this is an attempt to protect the thieves in both the Government and the Opposition,” he added.
UNP Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella said that Parliament had control over public finances, and the Speaker could overrule the AG in this matter.
“This forensic report covers the period from 2001 to 2015. Our Government stands accused of selling Treasury bonds worth Rs. 10 billion, and thereby causing a loss of Rs. 12 billion. But according to these reports, the Government before us has sold Treasury bonds worth Rs. 660 billion during the period from 2002 to 2015. In four years, we are accused of having caused a loss of Rs. 12 billion, but how much would the loss be for Rs. 660 billion? That is why we are asking to make this report public so that people can know,” Kiriella said.
The Speaker said he would consult the AG once again on the matter, as he too was keen to see that these reports were made available to all MPs.
The Central Bank last November said that the AG had advised the Monetary Authority to limit access to the five forensic audits conducted by them to only relevant officials, as they may contain information that could be used as evidence in ongoing investigations and future legal action.
The Monetary Board of the Central Bank, in consultation with the Auditor General, commissioned the Forensic Audits (FAs) which were carried out entirely by personnel based outside Sri Lanka, of audit firms with a global practice and international experience who were selected by a Cabinet Appointed Consultants Procurement Committee (CACPC) in compliance with applicable Government procurement guidelines. The Auditor General’s representative was an observer on CACPC.