June 07, Colombo: President Ranil Wickremesinghe announced plans to establish a Digital Promotion Agency aimed at developing computer applications for the collection and monitoring of data from various government entities in Sri Lanka.
Previously, private companies had been responsible for creating such applications for government organizations.
However, the President emphasized the need for a dedicated agency to carry out this task in the future. President Ranil Wickremesinghe shared these intentions during a meeting with Governing and Opposition Members of Parliament at the Parliament Complex.
The purpose of the gathering was to address the overlapping work of the Oversight Committee and expedite its progress.
As per the President’s recommendation, Opposition Parliamentarian Dr. Harsha De Silva, was appointed as the new Chairman of the Committee on Public Finance.
President Ranil Wickremesinghe, further said:
Standing orders should be followed when appointing chairmen of committees and advisory bodies. According to the existing standards, the chairmanship of the Committee on Public Finance Committee should be offered to members of the opposition. Harsha de Silva’s name and the names of several other members were proposed for this purpose. MP Mayantha Dissanayake has resigned as chairman. If the opposition suggests it, MP Harsha de Silva should be appointed head of the Committee on Public Finance. The IMF agreement was approved by Parliament. The newly appointed chairman should conduct himself appropriately.
The rules and regulations of committees and advisory councils should be set by the MPs who meet in those bodies. If the committee meeting cannot be held in the Parliament, we can find another location. The participating members could be paid separately. One thing should be mentioned here. Before presenting a bill to the Parliament, it should be presented to the MPs in advance to discuss and to be aware of it. It should be presented to them at least a week before the debate instead of delivering the bill today to be submitted tomorrow. It will be meaningless. It would be preferable if MPs were given at least two weeks’ notice.
Under World Bank support, funds have been secured to build an Interim Budget Office. We need your assistance to keep it running. The council should recognize its own obligations and designate Chairmanships of committees and advisory councils, as well as their representatives, with suitable targets.
In the past, District Revenue Officers (DRO) was assigned to Local Councils in Sri Lanka to collect government taxes. In India, there were Collecting Officers. However, when the Regional Secretariats in Sri Lanka expanded, the DROs disappeared and later they became Assistant Government Agents.
As a result, these Assistant Government Officials spent the government’s money rather than collecting revenue for the government. Consequently, the government will have to recruit at least 200 new DROs to collect the income if necessary.
Moreover, until recently, the private sector was responsible for the development of computer apps to gather and store data from government institutions for the functioning of government institutions. It should be stopped. Prompt measures have been made to establish a Digital Promotion Agency (DPA) for this purpose. As a result, DPA will develop computer applications for all government organizations in Sri Lanka in the future. Furthermore, two months before the budget, the Sectorial Oversight Committees shall provide a report on how the government’s money has been utilized.
Member of Parliament Mr Harsha De Silva:
Honourable President, I’d like to thank you for appointing me as the new Chairman of the Government Finance Committee. We questioned the Committee on Public Finance not to disrupt these efforts, but to steer the committee and its responsibilities in the appropriate direction. We collaborated with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) to establish an Interim Budget Office.
Member of Parliament Mr Patali Champika Ranawaka,
In the Parliament, there are around 73 Committees and Advisory Councils. Human and physical resources are insufficient to support these Committees. If a rapid progressive committee program is required, the infrastructure should be strengthened.
Member of Parliament Mr. Mahindananda Aluthgamage,
Committees and advisory groups can have a significant impact. However, the representatives who have been appointed are engaged in a political process rather than performing their official duties. They are attempting to address the media through media shows. This is something we should avoid. It needs a quick program as it contains sensitive issues in these areas.
This discussion was attended by Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena, Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena, Education Minister and Leader of the House Dr. Susil Premajayantha, Parliamentary Secretary General Kushani Rohanadeera, President’s Senior Advisor on Economic Affairs Dr. R. H. S. Samaratunga, President’s Parliamentary Affairs Secretary Prof. Ashu Marasinghe, and members of the Government and Opposition.