MB Subba

The joint sitting of the Parliament yesterday decided to table the Annual Audit Report 2020-21 before Parliament and forwarded it to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) for review, despite some members’ objections.

This means that the PAC will table its review report on the Annual Audit Report for deliberation in the summer session. However, the PAC’s Rules of Procedure states that the committee shall table the annual audit report during the winter session.

The Auditor General submitted the report in November or the second quarter of the financial year. The Audit Act 2018 states that the report should be submitted in the fourth quarter.

However, a majority of members supported the early submission of the report on the grounds that the report would be timely.

Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering said that it was important for Parliament to accept the Annual Audit Report although it was submitted early. He said rejecting the report would send the wrong message to society.

The prime minister, however, added that discussions could be held in the future if the Audit Act needs an amendment.

Opposition Leader Dorji Wangdi also supported the early submission of the report, saying that it did not violate the Act. He said that issues would arise only if the report is submitted after the fourth quarter.

Eminent Member Phuntsho Rapten said that although there were concerns, members agreed on the objectives of RAA’s decision to submit the report six months before the prescribed time. He said that the early submission of the report was in the interest of the country.

The NC member from Haa, Ugyen Namgay, said that while the intentions were appreciated, the Audit Act should be respected. “Section 111 of the Act specifically states that it should be submitted in the fourth quarter.”

Similarly, the NC member from Gasa, Dorji Khandu, said that tabling the annual report in the winter session was not in compliance with the Act and that it would set a wrong precedent.

He said that it would have an adverse impact on the rule of law. “We cannot interpret the law to suit our arguments.”

NC Chairperson Tashi Dorji said that Section 111 of the Audit Act could be repealed through amendment in the coming session to solve the issue.

He said that Section 115 of the Act states that the Auditor General shall submit the Annual Audit Report to Parliament and any other audit reports including performance audit reports as the Auditor General may consider significant would suffice.

However, Finance Minister Namgay Tshering said that it would not only violate the Audit Act but also the Public Finance Act, Section 13(a) of which states “the Minister of Finance shall table before Parliament the audited Annual Financial Statements of the financial year ended during each summer session”.

He explained that the annual audit report and the audited Annual Financial Statements were similar reports.

The finance minister also said that accountability should be fixed on those who leaked the Annual Audit Report to the media before it was tabled before Parliament.

He said that leaking the report to the media before it is tabled in Parliament will create disharmony in the society.

Section 11 of the Act states that upon tabling the reports in Parliament, the Authority may upload the reports on it webpage and make them available to media in line with the Policy Guideline on Media Communication framed under this Act.