YAHAPALANA AS A PUPPET REGIME Part 10 (section 2)
Posted on September 15th, 2019

KAMALIKA PIERIS

SMART DRIVING LICENCES

Committee on Public Accounts (COPA)  found that the government had suffered a loss of around Rs. 4 billion owing to a decision made by the Department of Registration of Motor Vehicles to extend a contract given to a private company to issue smart driver licences. The private company had a contract for seven years. When its term ended, in 2016, the Department gave it a two-year extension.

The private company should have handed over its machinery used for the issuing of smart licences to the RMV at the end of the contract so that the department could issue licences on its own. However, the company instead of handing over their machines, continued to obtain extensions, causing a massive loss to the government. If the task had been carried out by the Department it could have earned an average income of Rs. 120 million a month.

According to the contract, the private company was to provide technology and training to RMV officials but they had not done so. The RMV officials said that they did not have a sufficient number of employees to be sent for the training considering the workload at the Department. Officials said they were not ready to take over the task of issuing smart licenses themselves.

COPA then ordered Chairman, RMV to take immediate action to take over the task of issuing smart driver licenses from the private company. If the RMV needed, it could set up a company managed by the government for the purpose and the approval of the Cabinet could be obtained.

SRI LANKA INSTITUTE OF INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY (SLIIT)

SLIIT stands on a 25-acre land owned by Mahapola Education Trust Fund (METF). SLIIT was built by Mahapola at a cost of Rs 373 million at Malabe. The Malabe facility was estimated at Rs 408 million.  An agreement signed in 2005 said SLIIT would pay METF either Rs. 8 million or 20% of the net profit, whichever was greater.

 Instead on May 12, 2015, METF   leased the land, on which SLIIT stands, at Rs. 20 million per annum for 60 years and also signed an agreement that made SLIIT independent of Mahapola. The deal was finalised during the yahapalana 100-day programme, observed critics.  Auditor General said in his report on the METF, that due to the new agreement, the Trust lost Rs. 120.99 million between May 2015 and December 2017.

METF was headed by the Chief Justice. Justice K. Sripavan, Head of METF told the Presidential Commission of Inquiry investigating corruption in the current administration that the METF Board of Trustees had not authorized the 2015 agreement between the Trust and SLIIT to make the institute an independent body.

He said that a board minute was presented to him by Wickrema Weerasooriya which said that the Board had approved the two agreements, when in fact, there had been no discussion at the Board meeting on the matter. “I  informed him that it was misleading information and asked him to remove that part immediately,” Sripavan informed the Commission. Usually, the Director of the Trust prepared the minutes. But minutes of the 56th and 57th board meetings had been prepared by Weerasooriya as the  Director had been removed.

Two appointed members, namely, Padmadeva Rajakaruna and Dr. Wickrema Weerasooriya had signed the agreement with SLIIT and told the other members that as two appointed members by ministers they had the power to do so.

Padmadeva Rajakaruna had told the Commission that he had been given permission to sign an agreement with SLIIT. Rajakaruna produced a document which he claimed contained the minutes of the 56th board meeting of Mahapola trustees on the decision, and two trustees, appointed by the Minister, had been authorized to enter into an agreement with the SLIIT. However, the official from the Attorney General’s Department pointed out that Rajakaruna’s document was different from the one-handed over by the Head of the METF.

ELECTRICITY (1)

Power and Energy Ministry has since January 2019  submitted multiple Cabinet papers seeking approval for varying quantities of emergency power. In June 2019  Cabinet approved the purchase of 200MW from a Turkish Karpowership barge for six months and another Karpowership barge for nine months. They are being contracted without tender. The CEB has already bought 100MW of emergency power from Aggrekko International, Altaaqa Alternative Solutions of the United Arab Emirates and V Power Holdings of Hong Kong.

ELECTRICITY (2)

Power, Energy and Business Development Ministry is planning to dip into the consumers’ deposits to the tune of billions of rupees, says Electricity Consumer Rights Movement the Ministry was planning to obtain permission to utilize the money of the electricity consumer deposits of the Ceylon Electricity Board. They were    planning to take Rs. 1.45 billion from  CEB  and Rs. 500 million from Lanka Electricity Company (LECO) without paying an interest to the consumer. According to  Section 28 of the  Electricity Act  CEB and LECO had to pay an interest on consumer deposits. They have not done so for years.  Yahapalana government   has taken steps to remove the Section 28 from the Electricity Act to enable the CEB and LECO to use the consumers’ deposits as they wished.

ELECTRICITY (3)

Since Minister Karunanayake took over the ministry in January, he has floated various emergency power proposals; contracted barge-mounted electricity outside accepted procurement procedure; and ordered the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) to appoint 27 personal nominees as coordinators to projects that have not even been initiated,  said Dushana Vidu Nethin  ,an association of professionals.

“We also noted that the Minister of Power and Energy has taken various steps to halt solar power development in Sri Lanka. [He has taken]  steps to increase the electricity tariff. This  would drastically affect the development of solar power in the country as there will be no incentive for people to purchase roof top solar power plants”.Minister Karunanayake is also attempting to reduce the PUCSL’s status of Economic, Technical and Safety regulator” to only “safety regulator” and “ombudsman” of the electricity industry, said Dushana Vidu Nethin.

APPOINTMENTS (4)

A probe conducted by Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE)  found that 1,707 persons had been recruited as Staff Assistants and Office Assistants of the National Savings Bank on the basis of lists sent to the bank by the Private Secretary of the Minister of Finance. 104 persons had been recruited in 2017, 36 in 2018 and 250 in 2019. They had been given letters of appointment. General Manager, NSB stated that this has been the procedure since 2008. We changed it in 2018 and recruited them as trainees, but they also  were recruited from the list..

APPOINTMENTS (5)

Media reported that in June 2019  , Power and Energy Minister Ravi Karunanayake had  ordered Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) to appoint 27 of his personal nominees as project coordinators” for a spate of  non- existent power plants and the  power transmission facilities for the non-existent power plants. Project coordinators usually work under a project manager to help ensure tasks are completed on time and within budget.

Most of these power plants are not in operation, .some have not even gone before the Cabinet, said the media. These include two new coal power plants, two  government-to-government funded 300MW natural gas combined cycle power plants, the proposed 300MW natural gas combined cycle power plant by the CGL Windforce Consortium and the 300MW natural gas combined cycle power plant by Lakdanawi. A spate of wind, hydro and solar power parks around the country  area also included. These project coordinators were to be appointed in view of prevailing security situation of the country”. It is not explained how  these new project coordinators could help the prevailing security situation, concluded the media.

APPOINTMENTS (6)

in  July 2019 Dushana Vidu Nethin, (DVN) ,  condemned the appointment of Power and Energy Minister Ravi Karunanayake’s lawyer Sandun Gamage to the fifth vacant position of Commissioner at the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka. Gamage’s name was approved by the Constitutional Council. Gamage represented Karunanayake multiple times during hearings into the Central Bank bond scam before the Presidential Commission appointed to inquire into the case, DVN said.

BUSINESS

Yahapalana government announced that  it would set up a National Single Window (NSW) to help business. Sri Lanka’s National Single Window (NSW) will allow businesses to lodge information and documents with a single entry point, to fulfil all import, export and transit-related regulatory requirements. A NSW Blueprint would be released soon, said officials. The implementation of the NSW is  a legal obligation under the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), which Sri Lanka has signed.

This was discussed at public-private consultative organised by the International Trade Centre (ITC), in collaboration with Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL),in September 2018. It was suggested that Sri Lanka should take a gradual approach and not try to bite off more than it can chew. The participants pointed out that  improving the functionality of a NSW is more important than extending the service to all traders and geographical locations in the country at the start of operations. It should start with Colombo port.

Sri Lanka should go for a more phased implementation, where change is gradually introduced over a longer time frame, starting on a small or limited scale. This was what Indonesia had done. In its first stage Indonesia limited the activity to three government agencies in  one port. Second stage covered five seaports, while the third stage expanded the INSW to all import procedures in the ports. The fourth stage in July 2009 covered import procedures for Government agencies in a seaport, airport, and dry-port. In January 2010, the fifth stage made the INSW mandatory for all import procedures in five ports. In the final phase, the INSW was extended to 21 ports and all import-export procedures in the country. (Continued)

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