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COPE questions Ceylon Coal Company officials on Rs. 1.1 billion loss



A probe by the COPE (Committee on Public Enterprises) yesterday found that a loss to the tune of Rs. 1.1 billion had occurred due to the non-specification of the quantity of coal required when calling for tenders for the purchase of the raw material by the Ceylon Coal Company (Pvt) Limited.

The Ceylon Coal Company (Pvt) Ltd. had purchased coal on a short-term basis without following the proper procurement process, the COPE was informed at its meeting at the Parliamentary Complex with its Chairman Prof Charitha Herath presiding.

COPE members Ministers Mahinda Amaraweera, Mahindananda Aluthgamage, State Ministers Nalaka Godahewa, Sarath Weerasekera, Ajith Nivard Cabraal, MPs Patali Champika Ranawaka, Eran Wickramaratne, Jagath Pushpakumara, Premnath C. Dolawatta, S.M. Marikkar and Rauff Hakeem were present at the meeting.

A group of senior officials of the Ceylon Coal Company Ltd had been summoned to respond to the queries of the COPE probe. They told the committee that they had expected to take the advantage of the fluctuations in market prices by purchasing coal on a short-term basis.

COPE Chairman Herath pointed out the need to handle tenders with the approval of the Cabinet of Ministers in accordance with the prescribed procurement process.

The Norochcholai Lakvijaya Power Plant was added to the national grid to meet a 900 MW electricity requirement, but there was a shortfall of 90 MW, the COPE was told.

It was also revealed at the meeting that only 810 MW was actually being generated and that 90 MW shortfall was unavoidable.

Secretary of the Cabinet Procurement Committee had been absent from the Procurement Committee meetings on eight occasions and an Additional Secretary has been appointed for the purpose. Therefore, the COPE Committee noted that there was a problem with the legitimacy of decisions taken. However, officials said that it was possible to appoint an Additional Secretary for the purpose. The Chairman recommended submitting an immediate report to the COPE to ascertain whether this was correct.

The committee asked why three barges purchased by the Ceylon Electricity Board at a cost of Rs. 1100 million had been handed over to the Sri Lanka Navy. The COPE directed the Secretary to the Ministry to submit an immediate report on the procedure followed in handing over the barges and the reasons for their inability to maintain them.

The newspaper advertisements had said that five years’ experience in coal supply was required for the supplier, but applications had been issued to companies with only three years’ experience. The committee was of the view that it had put the coal company at a disadvantage. It also said no formal procedure had been followed on the last day of bidding. The Committee decided that those matters should be duly investigated.

The COPE asked whether the involvement of the Sri Lanka Shipping Corporation in the purchase of coal would result in a loss than the purchase of coal through another institution under the normal tender system. It recommended submitting a report in that regard.

The COPE noted the need for regular meetings with the Ceylon Electricity Board, the Ceylon Shipping Corporation, the Ceylon Coal Company and the relevant ministry and its members to draw their attention to the cost of operating thermal power plants.

The COPE Chairman instructed officials to submit all reports on these matters within one month.

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Majority of 300 luxury vehicles to be released



… some shipped in without opening LCs, EU wants restrictions abolished

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The majority of the luxury vehicles imported by special permit holders in contravention of the import ban imposed by the government in view of precarious economic situation caused by corona first wave are likely to be released subject to penalties.

Well informed sources said that those vehicles shipped in without even opening LCs would be released. Among the violators were many government servants.

Sources said that vehicles brought in without opening LCs were likely to be confiscated.

“We have categorised over 300 vehicles, including BMWs, Mercedes-Benz and Audis into two groups. Customs are now in the process of evaluating individual cases,” a high ranking state official said.

The government announced a ban on vehicle imports to arrest the depletion of foreign reserves. Sources acknowledged that at the time the vehicles

arrived in Sri Lanka the second corona wave hadn’t erupted. The situation was far worse now and further deteriorating, they said, adding that the Customs were being inundated with requests for releasing vehicles on sympathetic grounds.

Controversy surrounds the failure on the part of the government to strictly implement the import ban in view of the sharp drop in state revenue due to the pandemic.

Recently, the EU demanded that Sri Lanka immediately lift import ban or face the consequences. The EU issued the warning in talks with government representatives. Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena explained the circumstances that compelled the government to impose import restrictions. The EU sought an explanation as to when the ban would be lifted. The Foreign Ministry quoted Foreign Minister Gunawardena as having explained to the EU the challenges Sri Lanka economy was facing amidst the dwindling foreign currency reserve situation due to the significant reduction in remittances and tourism revenue induced by the COVID-19 global pandemic. The minister said that the import restrictions were being reviewed.

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Nearly 74,000 persons under home quarantine



Close to 74,000 people belonging to 27,974 families had been placed under home quarantine, Police Spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana said on Wednesday (25).

He said that the number of cases from the Minuwangoda and Peliyagoda clusters had increased to 17,436 with 458 persons had tested positive for the virus on Tuesday.

Two wards of the Kethumathi Maternity Hospital, Panadura were temporarily closed on Wednesday after two pregnant women admitted there tested COVID-19 positive.

The two women are from Atalugama, which has been declared an isolated area. During the last few days close to half of the COVID-19 patients detected in Colombo District are from Atalugama.

The two women have been sent to Neville Fernando Hospital, Malabe. The patients and staff in Wards 3 and 4 at the Kethumathi Maternity Hospital are now under quarantine. Their family members too have been asked to undergone self-quarantine.

The Police had arrested 61 persons who had violated quarantine laws within the 24 hours that ended at 8 am yesterday, Police spokesman, DIG Ajith Rohana said, adding that they had been arrested for not wearing masks or for not maintaining physical distancing. With those altogether 688 persons had been arrested for violating quarantine laws from October 30, he said.

Commissioner General of Prisons Thushara Upuldeniya said that apart from Welikada, the spread of COVID-19 had been controlled at other prisons. COVID-19 cases had been reported from six prisons, he added.

“We are conducting PCR tests and hope that the situation in Welikada too would be brought under control. Twenty four new cases were detected from prisons on November 24 and from October 04, we have identified 708 cases within the prison system.”

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Severity of impact of second wave on economy could be far worse than anticipated – CBSL



By Shyam Nuwan Ganewatte

The impact of the second wave of COVID-19 could be severer on the economic growth than previously anticipated, Director of Economic Research at the Central Bank Dr. Chandranath Amarasekara said yesterday (26).

Dr. Amarasekera said so responding to a query by The Island at a CBSL media briefing. The top official said that an assessment couldn’t be made yet as the second wave was continuing.

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