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UNP’s ‘Yowunpura’: National Youth Services Council bid to hinder audit revealed

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‘Disputes among govt. appointees major obstacle’

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The parliamentary watchdog committee on public enterprises-COPE has called for an explanation as regards unauthorised expenditure on ‘Yowunpura’ in 2018 and 2019.

A recent COPE investigation has revealed huge losses and a bid to suppress the government auditing process.

According to COPE, the yahapalana government had spent Rs. 80,560,914 over the estimated cost of Rs. 350 mn. The then President Maithripala Sirisena and Preme Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe attended the 2018 event; the President skipped the event the following year.

The then minister Sagala Ratnayaka played a key role in organising the UNP’s flagship project ‘Yowunpura’ to attract the youth. COPE probe has revealed that public funds had been spent, sans proper procedures

COPE has revealed the violation of the procurement process in respect of ‘Yowunpura’ 2019 an additional payment to the tune of Rs. 2,227,400 had to be made. COPE Chairman Prof. Charitha Herath presided over the meeting. In addition to the Chairman, Minister Mahinda Amaraweera (SLPP), State Minister Susil Premajayantha (SLPP) and Madhura Withanage, MP and Premnath C. Dolawatte, MP, attended it. Those COPE members who had been with the UNP at that time and now represented the Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) skipped the relevant meeting. The original COPE comprised Mahinda Amaraweera, Mahindananda Aluthgamage, Rohitha Abegunawardhana, Susil Premajayantha, Jayantha Samaraweera, Dilum Amunugama, Indika Anuruddha Herath, (Dr.) Sarath Weerasekara, D. V Chanaka, (Dr.) Nalaka Godahewa, Ajith Nivard Cabral (resigned to take up post of Central Bank Governor), Rauff Hakeem, Anura Dissanayaka, Patali Champika Ranawaka, Jagath Pushpakumara, Eran Wickramaratne, Ranjan Ramanayake (lost seat after being convicted by the Supreme Court for contempt of court), Nalin Bandara Jayamaha, S.M. Marikkar, Premnath C. Dolawatte, Shanakiyan Rajaputhrian Rasamanickam, and (Prof.) Charitha Herath.

The COPE also observed that Rs. 1,932,500 had been spent on 1,773 T-shirts for the distribution among youth after the conclusion of the ‘yowunpura,’ meet in 2016. The parliamentary watchdog committee pointed out that public funds had been spent without approval of a Technical Evaluation Committee (TEC).

It was also revealed at this Committee meeting that according to the report of the Survey Board, 268,000 leaflets had been discarded whereas the total cost of printing in 2017 was Rs. 1,822,400.

Although Sri Lanka Youth Services Pvt. Ltd. was established in 1981 with over 98% shareholding in the National Youth Services Council, it was disclosed at the Committee meeting that the joint financial had never been prepared.

Instructions pertaining to the non-disclosure of matters related to the National Youth Services Council and the Sri Lanka Youth Services Pvt. Ltd to outside parties by way of an Internal Circular issued by the Chairman of those institutions Dhammith Wickremesinghe to the Heads of Divisions on 08th October 2021 was also revealed at the COPE Committee. The Committee pointed out that it hindered the work of the National Audit Office and the Ministry of Youth & Sports.

Prof. Herath urged Sports Ministry Secretary Anuradha Wijekoon and Youth Services Chief Dhammith Wickremesinghe to stop fighting and work towards achieving government goals. Lawmaker Prof. Herath emphasized that cooperation among key state institutions was of pivotal importance.

The Secretary to the Ministry of Youth & Sports and the Chairman of the National Youth Services Council and the Sri Lanka Youth Services Pvt. Ltd. should co-operate or face the consequences, Prof. Hearth said. Their failure to do so would be a serious impediment to the government, Prof. Herath told the COPE meeting last Tuesday (16)

The COPE Chairman also instructed the Secretary to the Ministry of Youth & Sports, Anuradha Wijekoon, to take immediate action against officials who were found to be negligent and misbehaving.

The Committee also noted that the Sri Lanka Youth Services Pvt. Ltd. had not prepared a consolidated plan since 2017. The Committee also questioned the company for not preparing an action plan.

The Chairman of the Committee Prof. Charitha Herath stated that there was a delay in the submission of the Annual Reports of the National Youth Services Council to Parliament and also questioned the non-submission of the Annual Reports of the Sri Lanka Youth Services Pvt. Ltd. since 2015. The Committee also directed the Ministry of Youth & Sports to submit all such reports to Parliament expeditiously.

Although it was decided to construct the Nilwala Youth Park in Matara by a Cabinet decision, COPE pointed out that no feasibility study had been carried out in that regard. The Ministry of Skills Development and Vocational Training paid Rs. 142,810,543 as compensation and interest to the relevant land owners and Rs. 7,657,349 as advisory fees to the National Youth Services Council as at 31st December 2014.



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Countrywide power outage act of sabotage, claim TU, officials

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Unions suspect sinister attempt to call in military

Engineers say technical fault caused power failure

CEBEU suspends work-to-rule protest

By Ifham Nizam

The government was trying to pin the blame for yesterday’s countrywide power outage on the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) trade unions in a bid to call in the military, Joint Trade Union Alliance Convener Ranjan Jayalal said yesterday.

Jayalal told The Island the government’s attempt would tarnish the image of the military and that of the country, but such intimidatory tactics would not deter the CEB unions from continuing with their action against the questionable agreement between the government and the US energy firm, New Fortress, which has been allowed to acquire a 40% stake in the Yugadanavi power plant. “The government is trying to derail our trade union action, scheduled for December 08. Definitely the power outage was an act of sabotage. Two units of the Norochcholai coal-fired power plant and the one at Sapugaskanda had failed,” he added, insisting that the trade unions had nothing do with the power outage. He said union activists had sprung into action to restore power despite their work-to-rule, for the sake of the country and its people.

A senior independent electrical engineer said the power failure was an act of sabotage or attempt at sabotage. “It could have been a rehearsal that misfired,” he added.

Electricity supply in several areas in Colombo and its suburbs were restored around 2.00 p.m. Subsequently, the power supply on Anuradhapura-Habarana, Laxapana-Athurugiriya and Kotmale-Biyagama transmission lines was restored. However, even at 5.30 p.m. most parts of the Gamapaha District experiencing power failures.

CEB General Manager, Eng. M R Ranatunga sand disruptions to the power supply could be considered sabotage. He said CEBEU activists had been dragging their feet on power restoration.

State Minister of National Security & Disaster Management Chamal Rajapaksa said necessary action would be taken against the CEB engineers if it was revealed that the power outage was an act of sabotage.

Major disruptions to the electricity supply were reported across the country around 11.30 a.m. yesterday owing to a breakdown in transmission lines.

The National Water Supply and Drainage Board (NWS&DB) said the water supply in several areas of Colombo and suburbs had been disrupted due to the breakdown in the power supply as the NWS&D is dependent on the national grid for pumping purposes.

The Ceylon Electricity Board Engineers Union (CEBEU) last night said it had received a favourable response from the government to its demands and therefore decided to suspend its work-to-rule campaign.

The Island learns that President’s Secretary Dr. P. B. Jayasundara will meet a CEBEU delegation, next week.

A senior electrical engineer expressed concern about CEB General Manager’s statement that the power outage was an act of sabotage by the engineers’ union. He denied as baseless the official’s claim.

CEBEU Secretary Dhammike Wimalarathne confirmed that his union had decided to suspend trade union action following an undertaking given by the government to have talks with them.

Meanwhile, CEBEU President Saumya Kumarawadu, addressing the media, yesterday, insisted that the power outage had been due to a technical problem.

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Chamal tells Parliament if power failure is due to sabotage, culprits will be dealt with severely

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By Saman Indrajith

Minister of Irrigation and State Minister of Internal Security, Home Affairs and Disaster Management, Chamal Rajapaksa told Parliament yesterday that the government was investigating the causes of yesterday’s countrywide power outage and if it was due to sabotage those responsible would be severely dealt with.

Responding to a question by Anuradhapura District SJB MP Rohana Bandara Dissanayake during the third reading stage debate on Budget 2022 under the expenditure heads of the Ministry of Defence, the Minister said that the government would not tolerate sabotage.

MP Rohana Bandara Dissanayake said that while the national security was being debated in Parliament the entire country was experiencing a power outage which could be considered a serious threat to national security.

He said all reservoirs were brimful and there was sufficient water to generate hydro power.

Colombo District SJB MP Dr. Harsha de Silva said that the entire country was in dark and Parliament was sitting thanks to power supplied by generators.

Minister Rajapaksa said that the government had already called for an investigation and it would not hesitate to take necessary action on the findings of the probe.

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Committee on Public Finance meeting: one-third drop in next Yala harvest predicted

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Members of the Committee on Public Finance recently recommended that if the import ban on rice, which was imposed last April, is to be lifted, it should be done only after a proper forecast of the coming Yala harvest.

The Chairman of the Committee on Finance Anura Priyadharshana Yapa pointed out that under the prevailing circumstances, the interest of the paddy farmers and consumers had to be taken into consideration.

In response to MP Yapa’s comment, the Imports and Exports Controller General revealed that, according to the available data, the expected Yala harvest is likely to be only 2/3 as compared to last year.

MP Nalin Fernando pointed out that if businessmen were allowed to import rice freely, the business community would be tempted to import more rice than necessary, driving the paddy prices down and affecting the farming community badly. Hence, the Ministry of Finance should intervene to prevent the local farmer from facing difficulties. MP Fernando also pointed out to the officials of the Ministry of Finance that it was important to make rice freely available at reasonable prices. Sri Lankans did not like rice imported from neighbouring countries, he said.

The Committee on Public Finance was urged to obtain approval for an Extraordinary Gazette Notification permitting the importation of Kekulu, Nadu, Samba and other types of rice as per the order of the Minister of Finance. MP Dr. Harsha de Silva said officials had to investigate the macro economic impact of such orders given without a proper procedural or logical assessment.

The committee members inquired from the officials of the Ministry of Finance who were present at the Committee meeting whether the 2021 Budget forecasts could be fulfilled. According to the statistics and data submitted by the officials of the Ministry of Finance, the committee observed that if only local funds were used to repay all debts, there would be an increase in interest rates in the near future and that would adversely affect the local private sector, (Dr.) Harsha de Silva said.

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