Tuesday 24 March 2020

Gajalakshmi Paramasivam

24 March  2020

Article 151 for the Curfew Expenditure?

I learnt through my Chartered Accounting lessons in Sri Lanka, that every debit must have an equal and opposite credit. They are like the two sides of the one Parliament. An Opposition  cannot negate the other but needs to be able to ‘see’ the other side not seen by the Government. The spending of the current government has been put under the microscope by the Hon Ranil Wickremesinghe – the effective Opposition in issues relating to law.

As per Daily Financial Times:

[Former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe yesterday called on the Government to reconvene Parliament and get the necessary funds approved to deal with the situation that has arisen due to the coronavirus, saying that the President has no powers to draw money from the consolidated fund after the dissolution of Parliament.
“It is difficult to predict when a new Parliament can convene. This is a crisis and this crisis can be resolved only by reconvening the old Parliament and getting the necessary funds approved by the Legislature,” Wickremasinghe said in a statement issued yesterday.
He said funds for the first four months of this year were allocated by the Vote on Account (VOA) last October and the President has no powers to draw additional funds from the consolidated fund until Parliament reconvenes]

Adaderana reports about the Government’s side in this regard:

[Rajapaksa said that Wickremesinghe contends that therefore, after the 30th of April 2020, the present government would not have the legal right to allocate funds for any purpose whatsoever. Former opposition leader Sajith Premadasa has also been repeatedly making the same assertion via the social media, he said.
The PM stressed that under Article 150(3) of the Constitution, the President is vested with the power to allocate funds from the Consolidated Fund to maintain government services after Parliament has been dissolved. 
“Hence the public should not entertain any fears about the availability of funds for the anti-Coronavirus campaign and to maintain other government services,” he said.]

Article 150(3) of the Sri Lankan Constitution reads as follows:

[(3) Where the President dissolves Parliament before the Appropriation Bill for the financial year has passed into law, he may, unless Parliament shall have already made provision, authorize the issue from the Consolidated Fund and the expenditure of such sums as he may consider necessary for the public services until the expiry of a period of three months from the date on which the new Parliament is summoned to meet]

As per my interpretation of article 150(3) – it applies where the Elections are determined. The appropriate article,  to my mind is 151 which states:

 (1) Notwithstanding any of the provisions of Article 149, Parliament may by law create a Contingencies Fund for the purpose of providing for urgent and unforeseen expenditure.
(2) The Minister in charge of the subject of Finance, if satisfied – (a) that there is need for any such expenditure ; and (b) that no provision for such expenditure exists, may, with the consent of the President, authorize provision to be made therefor by an advance from the Contingencies Fund.
(3) As soon as possible after every such advance, a Supplementary Estimate shall be presented to Parliament for the purpose of replacing the amount so advanced.]

Article 149 states:
(1) The funds of the Republic not allocated by law to specific purposes shall form one Consolidated Fund into which shall be paid the produce of all taxes, imposts, rates and duties and all other revenues and receipts of the Republic not allocated to specific purposes.
(2) The interest on the public debt, sinking fund payments, the costs, charges and expenses incidental to the collection, management and receipt of the Consolidated Fund and such other expenditure as Parliament may determine shall be charged on the Consolidated Fund.]

Obviously, the current government and the President did not ‘foresee’ the Coronavirus expenditure as a recurrent expenditure. This has been highlighted by Mr Wickremesinghe as a ‘crisis’ which it is to many countries.
The Rajapaksa government is known to have abandoned the law during the war. Mr Mahinda Rajapaksa abandoned the law in October 2018 also. It is therefore not surprising that they would abandon the law during this period also. Unless he self-punished himself for those breaches – that karma will mutate and continue to lead any manifestation by him in a law-abiding group.
Corona was rightly or wrongly unforeseen by the current President and the Prime Minister. Hence the provisions of Article 151 need to be the basis. As per this article only and Advance is allowed . This means the actuals need to be Accountable and appropriately approved.
So, did the current government follow Article 151 for the Curfew?

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