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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2702

Some Reflections of the Parliamentary Committee On Public Enterprise

By Dr.T.C.Rajaratnam

Dr. RajaratnamDr. RajaratnamThe implementation of Laws passed by the Legislature is monitored and performed by its Committees. It is a convention. Whilst the business in the Chamber of Parliament is to discuss public interests, the Committee is considered to be the path the Members generates the intricacies of Government plans and activities. Committees consist of Members of Parliament from various political parties. As such resolution of conflict between members is established with an endeavour for consensus and abolition of conflict.

Standing Orders 130 and 130 A (Standing Orders of the Parliament of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka) expressly defines the rules pertaining to all Committees. A Committee is required to examine and report on matters within its mandate. The Committees of the Full House is formed by a resolution of the House. The Select Committees are appointed by the Speaker and the other Committees are appointed by the Committee of Selection. The membership of certain Committees are specified in the Standing Orders.

A Committee can summon experts and witnesses to arrive at their decision. Four types of Committees exist. They are Select Committees, Consultative Committees, Standing Committees and Committees for Special Purposes

Standing Order 121 of the Standing Orders of the Parliament of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka states that there shall be a Committee to be designated the Committee of Selection appointed at the commencement of every session to consider the number, function and constitution (including quorum) of Consultative Committees and Legislative Standing Committees and to report with all convenient speed their opinions thereon to Parliament and to nominate members to serve upon the House Committee, the Committee on Standing Orders, the Committee on Parliamentary Business, the Committee on Public Accounts, the Committee on Public Enterprises, the Committee on Privileges and the Committee on Public Petitions*[The Committee of Selection shall consist of Mr.Speaker as Chairman and seventeen Members which shall include the Leaders of political parties or their nominees to be nominated by Parliament at the commencement of each Session.] The Committee shall have leave to sit notwithstanding any adjournment of Parliament, to report from time to time and to inform Parliament when any member has been nominated to any Committee.

Standing Order 123 of the Standing Orders of the Parliament of Sri Lanka speaks about the Committee of Standing Orders and that there shall be a Committee to be designated the Committee on Standing Orders consisting of Mr. Speaker as Chairman, the Deputy Speaker, the Deputy Chairman of Committees and six other members to be nominated by the Committee of Selection. It hall be the duty of the Committee to consider matters of procedure and conduct of business in Parliament and to recommend any amendments or additions to these Standing Orders that may deemed necessary and report on all matters relating to the Standing Orders which may be referred to them by Parliament.

In Sri Lanka, Standing Order 126 of the Standing Orders of the Parliament of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka as amended upto February 26, 1993 states:

“(1)There shall be a Committee to be designated the Committee on Public Enterprises

“(2)It shall be the duty of the Committee to examine the accounts of Public Corporations and of any business or other undertaking vested under any written law in the Government laid before Parliament along with the reports of the Auditor-General thereon;

“(3)The Committee shall from time to time, report to Parliament on the accounts examined , the budgets and annual estimates, the finances, financial procedures, performance and management generally of any Public Corporation or of any business or other undertaking vested under written law in the Government and on any matter arising therefrom.

“(4)The Committee may when it considers necessary appoint sub-committees of its own members to examine and report to the Committee on all accounts, the budgets and annual estimates, the finances and management of such public corporations or of any business or other undertaking vested under any written law in the Government as the Committee may direct.

“(5)The Committee or any of its sub-committees shall for the performance of its duties have the power to summon before it and question any person and call for and examine any paper, book, record or other document and to have access to stores and property.

“(6)The quorum of the Committee shall be four members”.

Priyanee Wijesekera in her Treatise on “Parliamentary Practice in Sri Lanka(2002 Parliament Secretariat) states “Although Parliament does not dictate the amount of public funds the Government may spend, the Government must specify in great detail and justify to the satisfaction of Parliament its proposed course of expenditure. Financial procedure covers planning, control and accountability and includes estimates, new expenditures and taxation. Public finance is dealt with by way of Money Bills, the Annual Budget, Supplementary Estimates, Public Investment Agreements and Committee Scrutiny(Public Accounts Committee and Committee on Public Enterprises)”.

The Committee on Public Enterprises known as the COPE examines the accounts of Public Corporations and of any business or other undertakings vested in the Government under any written law along with the reports of the Auditor-General. The Committee submits its reports to Parliament from time to time. It can appoint Sub-Committees to probe specific matters. Its duty is to report to Parliament on accounts examined, budgets and estimates, financial procedures, performances and management of Corporations and other Government business undertakings. The COPE can examine even the current expenditure of a Public Enterprise. COPE in its report determines the observations and recommendations arising from its examination of the Auditor-General’s relating to Public Enterprises.

“Public Enterprise” is defined in the Public Enterprise Reforms Commission Act No.1 of 1996 to include a “Public Corporation, a Government owned business undertaking or a company where all or the majority of shares are held by the Government(section 23)”.

The same section defines a “Public Corporation” to mean a Corporation, Board or other body which is established under a written law other than the Companies Act with funds or capital provided by the Government. Government Corporations, which are semi-Government profit making institutions were established under the Government sponsored Corporations Act No.19 of 1955. By this Act, the establishment of Corporations with capital provided by the Government was possible. The Act made it possible the sale to the public of shares of the Government in the capital of such Corporations and for the conversion of such Corporations into incorporated public companies with limited liability when the Government ceases to hold more than 20% of the share capital of such Corporations.

Section 10 of the Financial Control Act No.38 of 1971 requires the Auditor general to be the Auditor for every Public Corporation. Section 11 of the same Act requires every Public Corporation at the end of each financial year to prepare a draft Annual Report and submit to Parliament. The appropriate Minister is also given the power to direct the governing body of every Public Corporation to comply with the recommendations of the Public accounts Committee. The Public Enterprises Reforms Commission Act No.1 0f 1996 was enacted inter-alia to make recommendations regarding the conversion of public Enterprises into Public Companies and the sale of shares of such Companies etc. The provisions of article 154 of the Constitution relating to the audit of accounts of the Public Enterprises Reforms Commission. The Commission is also required at the end of each sale or disposal by lease or otherwise to submit a report to Parliament through the Minister in respect of all matters pertaining to such sale. These reports are referred to the Committee on Public Enterprises.

The composition, functions, terms of office, quorum and procedure in conducting business in the Committees are regulated under the Standing Orders. However, it is trite learning that the House has on various occasions adopted resolutions to vary the composition of Committees which is an irregular procedure(page 76 of Priyanee Wijesekera’s Treatise on ‘Parliamentary Practice in Sri Lanka’) . The correct procedure would be to amend the Standing Orders. Laws, Conventions and Public Policies may change or be amended from time to time. History speaks for itself.

Dr.T.C.Rajaratnam is the Co-Ordinating Secretary to the Chief Government Whip of Parliament, UNOPS Consultant and Consultant to the Chambers for Academic & Professional Studies.

- Asian Tribune –

Committee on Public Enterprises
Second Session of the Sixth Parliament


1. Hon. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe (Chairman)

2. Hon. Anura Priyadharshana Yapa

3. Hon. Dinesh Gunawardena/ Resigned on 20.07.2006

4. Hon. A.D Susil Premajayantha

5. Hon. Rohitha Bogollagama

6. Hon. Chandrasiri Gajadeera

7. Hon. Mahinda Amaraweera

8. Hon. Gunaratne Weerakoon

9. Hon. Sripathi Sooriyaarachchi

10. Hon. Dilan Perera

11. Hon. (Dr.) Mervyn Silva

12. Hon. Mahindananda Aluthgamage

13. Hon. Lasantha Alagiyawanna

14. Hon. Hussain Ahamed Bhaila

15. Hon. H.R. Mithrapala

16. Hon. Vadivel Suresh

17. Hon. John Amaratunga

18. Hon. Lakshman Kiriella

19. Hon. Ravi Karunanayake

20. Hon. Anura Dissanayake

21. Hon. Muthu Sivalingam

22. Hon. Hemakumara Nanayakkara

23. Hon. Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena

24. Hon. Navin Dissanayake

25. Hon. Sunil Handunnetti

26. Hon. Sarath Ranawaka

27. Hon. Mavai S. Senathirajah

28. Hon. Senathirajah Jeyanandamoothy

29. Hon. (Ven.) Athuraliye Rathana Thero

30. Hon. Piyasiri Wijenayake

31. Hon. Hasen Ali (Deceased)

Hon. Basil Rajapakse appointed on 09 October to the vacancy created by the resignation of Hon. Dinesh Gunawardena

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