Corruption: Spotlight on state-run bus service
It has been revealed at the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) that the Sri Lanka Transport Board (SLTB) spent Rs. 89 million in excess of the amount of funds allocated for the purchase of computers in 2018.
The SLTB had planned to purchase 139 computers and 74 laptops for the year 2018 at an estimated cost of Rs. 15,290,000, but acquired 800 computers and 47 laptops at a cost of Rs. 113,303,750. As a result, a staggering Rs. 89,977,500 was spent on the purchase of computers in 2018, in excess of the amount allocated through the General Accounts of the Transport Board, the COPE revealed.
This disclosure was made at the COPE meeting chaired by Prof. Charitha Herath, Member of Parliament. The Committee met on Wednesday (06) to examine the Auditor General’s Reports for the years 2017 and 2018 and its current performance in Parliament.
The COPE chairman expressed his displeasure at spending so much of money without following due process. Condemning the practice, he said that an institution which was supposed to serve the ordinary people, spending money in that manner could not be justified on any grounds. It was also disclosed that an agreement had been entered into with a private company to purchase equipment required to main tain the system required for cameras and GPS for 125 luxury buses at a cost of Rs. 33,628,840 . However, all except for a few of the devices were not working properly. Officials present at the Committee said that the employees of those buses had deliberately damaged the equipment and that an investigation was being carried out. The officials also promised to submit a report as soon as the investigation was completed. They said that if the warranty period had not expired, measures would be taken to get all equipment not in working condition repaired by the relevant company.
Attention was also drawn to the fact that the bank loan of Rs. 150,000,000 obtained on 24 December 2018 without the Minister of Finance approval. The COPE chairman pointed out that such a loan amount could not be obtained by a few officials. Therefore, COPE recommended that immediate action be taken in that regard.
The COPE also questioned the officials present regarding the SLTB’s failure to present the annual reports for the years 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 in Parliament. Officials pointed out that there were some concerns regarding printing during that period. However, the annual reports for 2017 and 2018 had already been submitted to the Ministry, officials said. Accordingly, the COPE ordered that all those reports be tabled in Parliament before 31 December.
According to the procurement plan for the year 2018, 1000 electronic bus ticket machines were to be purchased at a cost of Rs. 35 million with the approval of the Board of Directors. However, in the same year, Rs. 75,900,000 was spent on 2000 electronic bus ticket machines. Accordingly, 1000 electronic bus ticket machines were purchased without approval, and the COPE noted that those machines had not met the intended objectives. Therefore, it was recommended that a report be submitted to the COPE within a month in that regard.
Also discussed were the issues of several posts in the Board of Directors, the 5,921 buses in operation, the number of buses currently out of service and 2,742 buses which are 10 years old.
Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage, State Minister D. V. Chanaka, Members of Parliament Rauff Hakeem, Jagath Pushpakumara, Madhura Withanage, and Premnath C. Dolawatte were present at the meeting. Member of Parliament (Dr.) Harsha de Silva and other officials joined the meeting via zoom technology. The Secretary to the Ministry of Transport and other officials of the Sri Lanka Transport Board were also in attendance at the meeting.
GL: Suspension of IMF bailout highlights failure to meet anticipated revenue targets
By Shamindra Ferdinando
Top Opposition spokesperson Prof. G. L. Peiris yesterday (02) said that the government should take full responsibility for the suspension of USD 2.9 bn IMF bailout over Sri Lanka’s failure to achieve the anticipated revenue mobilisation.
The former External Affairs Minister found fault with the government for tax concessions granted to investors and the failure on its part to collect taxes, in spite of reaching an agreement with the IMF in that regard.
Referring to the declaration made by IMF delegation head Peter Breuer that the second tranche of about $330m would be delayed pending Staff-Level Agreement, Prof. Peiris pointed out that Sri Lanka and the lending agency had reached a staff-level agreement in early September last year.
Sri Lanka received the first tranche of USD 330 mn in the third week of March this year in terms of the Extended Fund Facility (EFF), spread over a period of four years.
While pointing out that revenue mobilisation had improved, the IMF said revenue was expected to fall short of initial projections by nearly 15 percent by the end of this year.
Addressing the media at the Nawala Office of Nidahasa Jathika Sabhawa, Prof. Peiris said that though the government tried to put on a brave face, the consequences of the indefinite delay could be quite catastrophic. He said the suspension of the programme could undermine debt restructuring talks with external creditors, governments, lending agencies and the commercial market.
Prof. Peiris said that the suspension of the programme, just after the release of the first tranche, was a matter for serious concern as the unexpected development could cause further erosion of investors’ confidence in the Sri Lankan economy.
Sri Lanka has obtained IMF assistance on 16 occasions.
Chairman of the Sectoral Oversight Committee on National Economic and Physical Plans Mahindananda Aluthgamage on Sunday told The Island the country was paying a very heavy price for the failure on the part of the Inland Revenue, Customs and Excise Department to collect the due taxes. Alleging that unpaid income taxes alone, over the past 15 years, amounted to a staggering Rs 904 bn, whereas revenue collecting authorities so far managed to collect Rs 1,643 bn though they were given a target of Rs. 3,101 bn for this year.
Prof. Peiris said that corruption in the public sector procurement process undermined the economic recovery process. The government defeated the Opposition moved no-confidence motion against Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella over corruption in the public health sector, Prof. Peiris said, asserting that the IMF must be aware of how the government encouraged waste, corruption, irregularities and mismanagement.
Prof. Peiris urged the government to take tangible measures to address the concerns of the IMF. Unfortunately, the government sought to deceive the public by claiming that the process was on track and would proceed following staff-level agreement, he said. He asked whether the government wanted the people to believe there would be staff-level agreements before the release of each tranche.
Prof. Peiris said that the government should correctly identify the warning issued by the IMF. It would be the responsibility of the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government to take remedial measures without further delay.
LPBOA demands bus fare hike
By Rathindra Kuruwita
Lanka Private Bus Owners Association (LPBOA) head, Gemunu Wijeratna on Monday (02) said they needed a five percent increase in bus fares following Sunday’s diesel price hike.
On Sunday, CPC, LIOC and Sinopec increased diesel prices by 10 rupees per litre.
Wijeratna said that the private bus owners had not increased bus fares when diesel prices were increased by 35 rupees per litre recently.
“With the latest price increase, short distance buses will lose Rs 1,000 a day. Long distance buses will lose Rs 2,500 a day. We can’t lose money like this. We want at least a five percent bus fare hike,” he said.
School transport providers have decided not to increase their charges.
Discourse on crisis in Lankan health sector at CSR
A discourse on the crisis in Sri Lankan health sector, under the theme ‘What ails the health sector? What solutions?’ is scheduled to be held at 4.00 p.m. on Thursday, 05 October 2023, at the Centre for Society & Religion (CSR) Auditorium, 281, Deans Road, Colombo 10, under the auspices of the Socialist Study Circle. The speakers will be Dr. Vinya Ariyaratne, Consultant Community Physician, President, Sri Lanka Medical Association, Dr. Ananda Wijewickrama, Consultant Physician, National Institute of Infectious Diseases and Ravi Kumudesh President, Academy of Health Professionals. The discourse is open to the public.
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