SJB Parlimentarian Dr. Harsha de Silva holds up the Appropriation Bill 2020 at the press conference
- Says numbers in multiple VoAs and Appropriation Bill do not match
- Alleges Govt. playing with numbers to show a lesser budget deficit for 2020 by transferring
- Rs. 700 b in expenses to 2019 accounts
- Seeks Auditor General clarification on budgetary figures via PM
- Warns SL will lose market credibility if attempts made to hide accurate figures
By Asiri Fernando
Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) Parliamentarian Dr. Harsha de Silva yesterday charged the Government was attempting to artificially shrink the budget deficit for 2020 by transferring Rs. 700 billion spent this year into the budget accounts of 2019 and called for a clarification from the Prime Minister on whether changes could be made to accounts already edited by the Auditor General.
Speaking to reporters, Dr. de Silva said there were discrepancies amounting to Rs. 700 billion between the Appropriation Bill presented to Parliament by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa this week and subsequently approved and the numbers in multiple Votes on Account (VoA) followed by the Government in 2020. Due to Parliament being dissolved in March 2019 and delays in the General Election, the Government followed three Votes on Account rather than a budget for 2020. Two Votes on Account were adopted before the election and one after 4 August.
To amalgamate all the VoAs and have clarity on public finances, the Government presented an Appropriation Bill for 2020 to Parliament, and it was approved on Thursday without a vote. Nonetheless, Dr. de Silva argued that the Government was attempting to mislead the public, key international organisations and markets by attempting to allocate Rs.700 billion spent in 2020 to the accounts of 2019.
Speaking at a press conference held yesterday, the former Minister of Economic Reforms questioned why the VOA for 2020 puts Government expenditure at Rs. 4,500 billion but the annexure to the Prime Minister’s speech delivered on Thursday stated it at Rs. 2,800 billion. Dr. de Silva argued that even with Rs. 1,000 billion added to the expenditure as debt repayment, the total would be Rs. 3,800 billion, leaving a Rs. 700 billion discrepancy.
“When we look into this, it’s clear that Rs. 700 billion has been added into the 2019 accounts which have already been audited and presented. The Auditor General has already finished auditing the 2019 accounts. How can Rs. 700 billion be added to accounts already audited?”
He warned that if a government “starts playing with numbers and shifting figures in this manner, budgetary data and calculations about growth and expenditure may not be seen as trustworthy”.
“This is a mathematical manipulation aimed at misleading the public and the international community. We as a responsible Opposition condemn such acts. We have taken the matter up with the Prime Minister and warned that the Government is fooling itself, the public and the international community. We all know the repercussions faced by countries that presented fake information like this. The public of those countries had to face very difficult economic challenges due to such action,” he said.
Dr. de Silva said that the Opposition has challenged Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa to present a clarification by the Auditor General on whether Rs. 700 billion in expenses incurred in 2020 can be entered in to the audited and closed accounts of 2019.
“If such a clarification is not given, we will not accept these figures. They will be seen for what they are, an attempt to mislead the public. We plan to take further action on this in the future based on the reply we receive from the Prime Minister.”
He also raised questions about the predicted Government revenue in the Appropriation Bill, stating that going by Government revenue figures for the past several months, the predicted earnings may not be reachable, thereby bringing into question the credibility of figures given by the Government for 2020.
“All of this points to one thing; that the Government is trying to show a lesser budget deficit than what really exists,” Dr. Silva charged.