Former Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera said today the Government has no legal right to bear public expenditure after 30 April 2020 and urged President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to reconvene Parliament with support of party leaders and get the necessary funds approved by the House.
“I request you to exercise your powers as the Head of State at this critical time to summon the Parliament as soon as possible with the support of all parties represented in Parliament and to have the essential expenditure, including the payment of salaries to the public service after 30 April 2020 approved legally and constitutionally so that Sri Lanka acts responsibly, respecting the Constitution in relation to public finances,” Samaraweera said in a letter he sent the President today.
He warned that failure to do so, especially at a time of a pandemic is bound to have serious repercussions for the short and long-term economic well-being of our people especially in light of international obligations and the nature of the interconnected global financial and economic system.
Samaraweera who presented the Vote on Account for the state expenditure of Sri Lanka up to 30 April, 2020 last year when he served as Finance Minister said that in the years when a presidential election is forthcoming, successive governments have refrained from passing a budget leaving an opportunity for the winning President to submit his own Budget.
“ I urge that by virtue of the Vote on Account passed on 23 October 2019, the Constitution clearly states that the Government of Sri Lanka has no legal right to bear public expenditure after 30 April 2020. As Parliament shall have full control over public finance, no sum shall be withdrawn except under the authority of a warrant under the hand of the minister in charge of the subject of Finance. No such grant can be issued by the Minister of Finance without such approval and it is unlawful for the Secretary to the Treasury to spend public money for any purpose without the approval of the Minister of Finance,” the letter said.
Samaraweera said that Article 150 (3) of the Constitution of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka provides for the incurring of Government expenditure in the event of the dissolution of Parliament and in the context of an Appropriation Bill not being passed in Parliament and q50 (3) of the Constitution reads as: Where the President dissolves Parliament before the Appropriation Bill for the financial year has passed in to law, he may, unless Parliament shall have already made provisions, 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.”
The President is authorised to spend money from the Consolidated Fund in terms of the provisions provided in the Constitution only until the expiry of three months from the date on which the new Parliament is summoned to meet. But the due date for the new Parliament to meet has not yet been officially announced by the President, Samaraweera said.
He said that the President, Prime Minister, Cabinet of Ministers and the Members of Parliament, as well as all public officials, including the Secretary to the Treasury, have pledged to uphold and defend the Constitution of the Republic. “Any person who acts in contravention of the provisions on conviction by the Court of Appeal shall be subject to:- (c)Civic disability for such period not exceeding seven years and (d) Forfeit his movable and immovable property other than such property as is determined as being necessary for the sustenance of such person and his family,” the letter said.