Audit act during tenure of this parliament: Alamgir

FE Report
The government will pass an audit act during the tenure of the present parliament in an effort to stamp out graft, wastage and abuse of power in public spending worth billions of dollars, an influential lawmaker said Tuesday. Head of the parliamentary standing committee on public accounts Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir said a draft audit act has been prepared and it will be enacted after debates at the parliament. “We’ll pass the act during the tenure of the parliament and will implement it,” Mr. Alamgir, an ex-state minister for planning, told a forum at the Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS) in the city. The member of the parliament said the proposed act is aimed at ensuring accountability in public procurements — a law experts say is a must for parliamentary democracy. Despite being a least developed nation, Bangladesh procures goods and services worth billions of dollars every year. But much of the procurement and spending suffer from suspicion of widespread graft. Questions are also perennially raised on the quality of the spending. Mr. Alamgir said the proposed act would ensure constitutional rights of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) and allow his office to conduct audit on public spending free of undue influence or interference.”Currently the CAG is not capable of practicing its own rights as per the provisions of the country’s constitution. We hope the proposed law will bring an end to this unwanted situation,” he said. Mr. Alamgir was speaking at a forum on Promoting Good Governance: Advocacy for an Audit Act. Ex-diplomat and Bangladesh Enterprise Institute (BEI) chief Farooq Sobhan moderated the workshop. Comptroller of Auditor General of Bangladesh Ahmed Ataul Hakeem and vice chancellor Professor Md Muinuddin Khan were present as special guests. Experts told the forum that transparency in public procurements could be ensured and graft worth tens of billions of dollars checked every year if the proposed audit laws come into force. They said the government’s annual development spending alone has shot to $US6.0 billion in the outgoing year, but the taxpayers who account for most of the government funds are hardly aware of how well the money is spent. Audit officials said they prepared a draft of the proposed audit act in 2009 and placed to the finance division for tabling in the parliament that year. But there has been no visible progress about its enactment. Great Britain enacted similar laws way back in 1883. Even India passed its own audit law in 1971, they noted. Mr. Alamgir said much of the ways Bangladesh conducts its procurements and spends taxpayers’ money contradicts with the central tenets of a parliamentary government. “Every year, we pass supplementary budget each year. But the whole process lacks transparency,” he added. He also said the food budget is also non-transparent. “An audit act might solve many irregularities in food budget and ensure transparency in the government works.” CAG Ahmed Ataul Kakeem said the draft act might be used as an effective tool to stamp out graft and irregularities related to public spending. He said people are paying taxes every year. “But the taxpayers don’t know how and where the money is spent.” Vice-chancellor of ASA University Professor Muinudidin said much of the public procurements and spending falls short of minimum quality benchmarks. He said the audit department is now giving audit objections on minor faults, but a large number of irregularities in public sector remained un-audited. MS Siddiqui, a businessperson, said government sector is providing different services without calculating the costs. “We want to know how much money is needed to supply one unit of gas,” he said. Former CAG Asif Ali presented a keynote paper on the issue during the workshop.
22 June, 2011