Why isn’t the COPE-COPA grilling the Politicians?
Posted on July 8th, 2022

ShenalI D Waduge

The public are listening with interest & shock to the questions and answers emerging from the COPE sessions. COPE & COPA are regarded as the Parliamentary WatchDog. Members of Parliament sitting on both Committees grill Public Officials questioning their actions, calling for explanations, national policies and even directing the CID to investigate. The irony is that all of these Ministers at some point or the other had been heading the Ministries where discrepancies and irregularities are taking place. So the question is, why are these politicians under whose tenure discrepancies & irregularities took place not questioned for their role too & grilled just like the public officials are? Legal action has to be instituted. If Public Officials are to face legal action so should Ministers. These 6 months of COPE/COPA findings can extrapolate the scale of corruptions that must have been committed by both Politicians and Public Officials since 1978. Every rupee must be recovered from them legally even if it means to acquire their lands/properties. Anyone contracted or any others working for the state who have committed wrong doings must equally be audited & legal actions taken against them. We are waiting for COPE & COPA heads to take this action to the next level. There is little point in simply grilling officials for public consumption without actions against their conduct.

The Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE)

The Committee on Public Accounts (COPA)

COPE 31 members reflecting the party composition in Parliament & was set up by Standing Order 126.

The COPE reports to Parliament on accounts examined, budgets & estimates, financial procedures performance & management of Corporations & other Government Business undertakings.

The Accounts are audited by Auditor General.

The COPE has powers to summon relevant officials to provide evidence as well as call for documents.

Prof. Charitha Herath was re-appointed as Chairman COPE in February 2022 proposed by Minister Sarath Weerasekera.

Prof. Tissa Vitarana was re-appointed as COPA (Committee on Public Accounts) Chairman proposed by State Minister Dayasiri Jayasekera.

Jagath Pushpakumara was appointed as Chairman Committee on Public Petitions

11Feb 

New Electoral System for Local Govt Elections

  • Select Committee of Parliament to Identify Appropriate Reforms of the Election Laws & Electoral System & recommend amendments
  • Holding local govt elections under mixed system of first past the post & PR system
  • 60% representatives via first past the post & 40% under proportional system
  • Increasing representation of women in local govt elections
  • Reducing number of existing representatives in local government bodies
  • ITN & MTV proposals on electoral system tabled

Nutrient management program for tea cultivation (Ministerial Consultative Committee on Plantations)

Minister Plantations Dr Ramesh Pathiran claimed chemical fertilizers, shade, water, soil were important to increase tea production.

Tea production had increased by 21m in 2021 despite shortage of chemical fertilizers

24Feb

Fauna & Flora Protection (Amendment) Bill approved by Consultative Committee

  • The amendment takes into account GSP concession
  • Reduce closure of Yala National Part from 2hours to 1 hour during day
  • Build a special leopard centre in Polonnaruwa
  • Minister instructs to refrain from taking ancestral lands to the forest dept

COPE director Geological Survey & Mines Bureau to pay Royalty to Dept Treasury 

  • Of Rs.16,591,075,088 collected from 2016-2021 only Rs.8,520,235,812 had been transferred to Treasury.
  • Salaries of GSMB Technical Services (Pvt) Ltd above the approved cadre also discussed (why should private staff be taken) 

Workers compensation (amendment) Bill for accidents on the job raised to Rs.2m 

  • Approved by Ministerial Consultative Committee on Labour

Plans to provide fertilizer without shortage (Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage)

  • World market increases in price of fertilizer / ban on chemical fertilizer in SL resulted in traders selling stocks of fertilizer at higher prices.

8 March

First COPE Report tabled in Parliament

  • Inquiries into 12 public enterprises summoned & examined by COPE during 1st session of 9thParliament
  • COPE Reports on – ITV, Special Audit Report on Storage & Distribution of Petroleum in Sri Lanka, Coconut Development Authority, Special Audit Report for Studying Present Status of the Field of Foreign Employment, Special Audit Report on the Role of the National Child Protection Authority Regarding Child Abuse in Sri Lanka, Insurance Corporation Limited, Audit Report Regarding the Performance of the Project to Relocate People Living in High Land-Slide Risk Areas in the Kandy District of the Central Province, Report of the Environmental Audit on Import, Use and Post Use Management of Plastic, Lanka Mineral Sands Limited, Postgraduate Institute of Science Affiliated to the University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka Cricket and National Livestock Development Board.

9 March

Ministerial Consultative Committee agrees to present Personal Data Protection Bill 

Bill intends to provide Regulation of Processing of Personal Data to identify & strengthen Rights of Data Subjects to protect Personal Data

11 March

COPE CHAIR states chaos results when Boards of Public Institutes take decisions

  • Auditor General’s Reports of 2017, 2018 reviewed
  • Performance of Development Lotteries Board – studio built for Rs.38.75m to record lottery draw programs not used from 2015 as well as status of payment of Rs.2146.82m to Rupavahini for recording lottery draws.
  • Lotteries Board officials informed the studio is to be developed into an auditorium while Rupavahini recordings are given on concessionary rates.
  • Clearly the project was initiated at the whims of different Chairmans or Board Directors wasting public money without a plan
  • COPE highlighted that the Lotteries Board had unilaterally violated agreement to lease building at 234 Vauxhall Street to Ministry of Trade (when Board was under the same Ministry) without recovering Rs.5,700,000 owed to the Board for 14 years
  • Allocation of official vehicles for 8 unqualified non-transport owners on 25 May 2015 paying Rs.2,590,545 for fuel and allowances in 2017 & 2018 was also noted by COPE. Officials claimed vehicles were given with approval of Lotteries Board when under Presidential Secretariat. Secretary Ministry of Finance was requested to conduct a formal inquiry
  • Unanswered – A cab worth Rs.8,095,000 registered to a driving agency used by a lotteries board chairman in 2008 without approval of board officials is missing since 2008. The lotteries board paid Rs.16,190,000 to the agency for non-payment. The total loss as of 31 Oct 2018 including legal expenses to the Board was Rs.26,634,185.Civil case filed to recover losses – what is the status of this?

14 March

Ministerial Consultative Committee on Foreign approves Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Amendment Bill

  • The first reading presented on 10 Feb
  • Amendments to be in accordance with determinate of the Supreme Court

COPE asks Marine Environment Protection Authority 

  • Call to expedite recovery of unpaid Rs.3480m from MY New Diamond shipwreck following shipwreck in September 2020. Rs.12m had been recovered but the estimated value Rs.3480 has not been received. Rs.51.3m has been received for the ship’s fire & oil spill. The delay in the AG’s dept to recover the money was also highlighted.
  • Explanation as for 10 year delay in legal action against ship Thermophile” which sank in 2012 although AG’s dept had been sent all information.
  • COPE Chairman directs Marine Environment Protection Authority to expedite amendment of Marine Pollution Prevention Act No 35 of 2008 to strengthen its legal authority as it is responsible to protect marine environment of Sri Lanka
  • Compensation for MV X-Press Pearl shipwreck near Port of Colombo in May 2021 also discussed. Amount received was less than value assessed under Civil Liability Act (giving $44m) as only $6m had been received. 823m had gone for cleaning & other activities. Rs.18m was spent on accommodation. COPE instructed to recover from the shipping company and requested a monthly plan with timelines.
  • Disposing large quantities of pollutants into Modara & Wellawatte ocean. COPE gives Secretary to Ministry 3 months to report.

15 March

Ministerial Consultative Committee on Lands agree to two regulations pertaining to Land Development Ordinance Section 155 & 156

  • Amending Gazette Extraordinary No. 2251/48 of 28th October 2021
  • Amending Gazette Extraordinary No. 2266/5 of 07th February 2022
  • Amending Gazette Extraordinary No. 2262/50 of 15th January 2022
  • Income limits to be considered in issuing licenses & grants of Land Development Order Ordinance of 2014 & Minimum Allocation Limits of Lands Relating to Licenses & Grant Issues under Land Order 115 of 1985.

23 March

Amending Value Added Tax Act No 14 of 2002 approved by Committee on Public Finance

  • VAT on financial services increased from 15% to 18% w.e.f 1 January 2022

Medical equipment, machinery and medicines donated to government hospitals and the Ministry of Health during an epidemic or public emergency exempted from Value Added Tax

  • Discussions on views of expert committee on Electoral System
  • Identify Appropriate Reforms of the Election Laws and the Electoral System and to Recommend Necessary Amendments.
  • Decision to seek views of members of expert committee

24 March 

COPE claims 47 Individuals obtained Rs.68m worth loans from State Mortgage & Investment Bank in 2017 using forged documents

  • Officials said cases had been filed against persons & CID was still investigating
  • Disciplinary inquiries against staff also in process
  • 2 parties already arrested by CID & one had passed away

25 March 

COPA instructs CMC to act after approving proper action plan in line with annual budget

  • CMC advised by Committee on Public Accounts to adhere to action plan as per Public Finance Circular No 01/2014 aligned to annual budget.
  • Auditor General claims proper action plan for 2020-2021 not approved
  • Revenue shortfall of CMC also noted.& CMC requested to submit data & statistics on revenue, expenditure, deficit revenue & public assistance

29 March

Educate & Motivate public to take Covid 19 booster vaccine

Public awareness campaigns for booster vaccine underway

19 April 

Finance Ministry to look into tax reductions on imported commodities actually benefit the Public

  • Committee on Public approves Resolution under the Customs Ordinance (Chapter 235) published in the Gazette Extraordinary No. 2262/14 dated 11.01.2022 & presented to Parliament on 05.04.2022.
  • COPE requests Finance Ministry to look into whether tax reductions on commodities such as rice being imported actually benefit the public
  • Orders under the Special Commodity Levy Act, No. 48 of 2007 published in the gazette Extraordinary Nos. 2255/8, 2259/9, 2260/72 and 2262/15 dated 23.11.2021, 21.12.2021, 31.12.2021 and 11.01.2022 presented to Parliament on 05.04.2022 also considered and approved by the Committee.

20 April

COPA recommends Excise Dept to set up a computer data base system to calculate Excise Revenue by linking Excise Dept, Customs Dept & Inland Revenue

  • Above recommendation made by Excise Dept & bids called from the Univ of Moratuwa & Univ of Colombo
  • Progress on the sticker management system for liquor bottles & liquor related products to increase govt revenue also discussed. Introduction of sticker management system, revenue of Excise Dept had increased 17% in first 3 months of 2021.
  • COPA also highlighted shortcomings including failure to document & maintain information on excise duty reduction on liquor exports

21 April

COPE reveals Building Materials Corporation not prepared financial statements since 2016

  • Corporation Officials stated data for 2017, 2018 and 2019 had been deleted due to a computer software problem resulting in no financial statements. Files related to 2017 were lost due to renovation!
  • Lack of financial reports financial matters since 2016 could not be discussed by COPE
  • COPE recommended CID to investigate
  • 500m loan from Bank of Ceylon in 2018 spent on employee salaries 
  • Only General Manager has permanent post in BMC – others are contract basis. Finance Director has announced resignation but still in service to attend COPE meeting
  • Chairman BMC announced resignation on 18 April – but resignation not yet approved by Board & Ministry.
  • COPE gives 3 months for financial statements & business plan to be submitted for 2017,2018, 2019.

COPE summons Sri Lankan Airlines again

To explain bidding process for lease of 21 aircrafts

25 April 

COPE looks into delay in formulating National Policy on Sri Lanka’s Mineral Resources

  • COPE summoned GSMB on 23Feb & resummonded on 21st April
  • Report of the Auditor General of the Geological Survey and Mines Bureau for the financial years 2018 and 2019 and its current performance considered
  • COPE Chair pointed out that although the Cabinet of Ministers had formulated a National Policy in 2017 and requested for its approval, it has not been formulated & has given 5 months to complete
  • failure to collect royalty from licensees for 22094 cubes of Thiruvana excavated from a land belonging to the Forest Department in the Kotikambokka area in Wellawaya and adjacent to it. Officials said that the collection of royalty of these items is done not by the mining license holders but by the export license holders.
  • royalty of Rs. 27419690 due for the soil cube and sand cube used in the construction of the Yan oya Reservoir Project had not been recovered from the relevant contractor.
  • In 2017, two officers suspended on criminal charges were given half pay, professional allowances, incentives and bonuses for the period of their suspension. They were appointed to the service from August 2019 with the approval of the Board of Directors without a disciplinary inquiry order. Officials present said that action would be taken to recover the money. COPE Chairman recommended the Secretary to the Ministry to conduct a formal inquiry.
  • Value added tax not levied on customers in the field inspection revenue collection for the years 2011 to 2014. However, Rs. 93068185 had been paid to the Commissioner of Inland Revenue in the year under review and this had been identified as a loss to the Bureau. COPE recommended responsible officials be identified and appropriate action be taken.

COPE Recommends Sri Lankan Airlines postpones Aircraft Procurement Process to lease 21 aircrafts (2022-2025) for 3 months due to economic situation

  • COPE advised the Secretaries to the Ministry of Tourism and the State Ministry of Aviation and Export Zones Development.
  • COPE Chairman recommended a procurement guideline be duly prepared and submitted to the Cabinet through the cabinet minister for the relevant procurement as a Cabinet decision.
  • Ashok Pathirage, Chairman of SriLankan Airlines and other senior officials pointed out that several aircrafts out of the 24 existing aircrafts will be reduced in near future and that the process would take some time as the acquisition of aircraft cannot be done immediately. Accordingly, considering the relevant market conditions, this process will take between 6-12 months and these activities will be carried out through the Ministry in a more transparent manner,

27 April 

Revenue from State-Owned Enterprises to be duly received by Treasury

  • COPE Chairman says annual revenue earned by state institutions should be properly received by the State Treasury.
  • State Timber Corporation had earned an operating profit of Rs. 1.4 billion (1,496,155,864) for the year 2021, only Rs. 100 million had been transferred to the State Treasury.
  • Forest Department had granted approval to the State Timber Corporation on June 30, 2020 for the removal of 28958 pine trees from the Hein ford Estate in Weligampola, Kandy but the trees had not yet been removed. 
  • Mahindananda Aluthgamage, stated that the State Timber Corporation could earn a huge profit if it could efficiently remove and export the timber recommended by the Forest Department for felling.
  • Committee on Public Enterprises on 10th October 2012 had directed action to be taken to amend the Corporation Act to empower the State Timber Corporation to issue a certificate for imported timber, but this has not yet been done.
  • The COPE inquired into the write off of Rs. 14.4 million worth of debtors by the Corporation without the approval of the Treasury. The officials said decision was taken by the then Acting Board of Directors in 2007 with the approval of the Corporate Audit and Management Committee.
  • The COPE Chairman said that since the Secretary to the Treasury is in charge of the Consolidated Fund for Public Debt, if the debtors are cut off, the Chief Accounting Officer should inform the Secretary to the Treasury and obtain permission.
  • The COPE, which met in 2012, directed that the losses at the Kaldemulla Furniture Factory to be increased to profit, but the COPE noted that it was still in a loss-making condition.
  • COPE Chairman reason to maintain the relevant institution at such a loss. The Chairman further stated that the furniture outlets owned by the Corporation as a whole have incurred huge losses. The Auditor General stated that the wastage of large quantities of timber in the production of furniture has been observed as a reason for these losses and that by-products of discarded timber can reduce this loss to some extent. Officials said that this was due to the lack of employees with proper knowledge of furniture manufacturing and the need to compete with the private sector in the market. However, it was revealed that the major shortcoming of the State Timber Corporation was not producing furniture. The Chairman instructed the Secretary to the Ministry to send a report within a month on the future course of action to be taken in consultation with the relevant officials.
  • COPE noted that two advisors and a driver had been recruited to assist the Chairman of the Corporation in contravention of the circular instructions only with the approval of the Board of Directors. The recruits were paid an allowance of Rs. 2,850 per day for 270 days, a sum of Rs. 769,500, from February 12 to September 3, 2019. Although the approval of the General Treasury was sought for this purpose, it was not received and the COPE Chairman informed the Secretary to the Ministry to take legal action against the relevant Chairperson.
  • COPE noted that the corporation had incurred a loss of Rs. 982,473 after reducing the price of items valued at Rs. 1,690,183 by more than 50 percent to Rs. 707,710 and the General Manager of the Corporation stated that this decision was taken due to the fact that the furniture was in a defective condition after being kept for too long without disposal. The Chairman said that if such concessions could be justified, a Board Memorandum should be submitted and the Auditor General’s Department should be informed.

5 May

COPE gives People’s Bank 3 months to submit full report on non-performing loans worth Rs.54b given to private sector

  • Special inquiry into Rs.402m spent on unutilized Data Warehouse Project launched in 2015. Head of IT appointed by Chairman of People’s Bank who introduced project was a former employee of the company which carried out the project – but without results for the Rs.402m spent. Secretary Ministry of Finance instructed to conduct a formal inquiry.
  • Special inquiry on Rs.16.6m worth vehicle purchased on 27 April 2015 used by former GM & transferred at cost of Rs.113,698 when he retired in 2019. (the GM of People’s Bank claims that handing over vehicle used by GM for more than a year was usual practice & value depreciated when transfer done – when did this practice start & by whom) 
  • COPE chairman recommends Sujeewa Rajapakse, Chairman of People’s Bank to submit a full report within a month on private sector grants Rs.54m worth loans & in non-performing status. Report to include how loan approval was given & persons giving the approval.
  • SMEs take much effort to get a bank loan but large sums in billions are given without showing ability to repay or adequately mortgaging property.
  • COPE Members (all MPs) pointed out that in the future when loans are given, it should be done in a more systematic manner with a sense of responsibility when handling national wealth (how many of these loans given had a political element to them?)
  • COPE also noted that companies owned by Board Directors also given loans and loans transferred to non-performing loan category. As of 31 Dec 2019 this loan amount was Rs.4.2b – CID was investigating.

6 May 

COPA focuses on failure to develop formal program to explore oil & natural gas in Mannar Basin

  • Auditor General’s reports for 2018, 2019, 2020 discussed on performance of Ministry of Energy
  • COPA 2016 – mentioned 5b barrels of fuel & 5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in Mannar Basin was sufficient to meet needs for 60 years. These deposits could be used to increase SL’s power supply to 1130kilowatts & natural gas production would bring approx. $200b in various sectors within 25 years
  • COPA questioned officials for failure to explore area & plan proper procedure to obtain revenue to SL from various sectors by commercially producing gas from 2 identified deposits.
  • Officials claimed difficulty in finding reliable investor for project & added employees of SL Petroleum Development Authority was not sufficient to deal with it
  • Modernization & expansion of Sapugaskanda Oil Refinery & construction of enw refinery discussed. Officials presented feasibility study to set up a new oil refinery at Sapugaskanda site. COPA requested report on this
  • Vacancies in staff & daily oil requirement of SL also discussed

19 May 

COPE summons Litro Gas to look into gas crisis

  • Management of Litro Gas Lanka summoned
  • Need to expediate gas distribution process

First Report of COPA tabled in Parliament

  • Report contains information on investigations of 7 Government Institutions summoned by the Committee on Public Accounts during the period from 04.08.2021 to 19.11.2021 and information on investigations pertaining to one particular audit report.
  • Department of Probation and Child Care Services, Department of Co-operative Development, Department of Social Development, Department of Excise, Kurunegala Municipal Council, Department of Immigration and Emigration, Ministry of Environment
  • A special audit report on procurement of medical supplies carried out by the Medical Supplies Division of the Ministry of Health Nutrition and Indigenous Medicine, dated March 14, 2018.

20 May 

Committee on Public Finance decides to summon CBSL Governor, Secretary to Ministry of Finance & other officials to discuss economic crisis & solutions

  • Import & Export Control Regulations 6 of 2022 in the Gazette Notification No. 2274/42 dated 09.04.2022 enacted under the Import and Export (Control) Act No. 1 of 1969 approved by Committee on Public Finance
  • This gazette notification will save cost importing goods subject to import control licenses
  • Gazette Notification No. 2274/42 dated 09.04.2022 issued enacting regulations to impose import control license requirements for the importation of 369 non-essential items. These regulations applicable to the importation of goods shipped on board date of bill of Lading/Airway Bill on or after 10th April 2022.
  • It was revealed that the cost of importing goods belonging to the categories of Watches, Telecommunication equipment and parts, Dairy products, Alcohol, Beauty products, Candles, Lamps and lighting accessories, Fruits, Rubber products (tires and erasers), Electrical and electronic items was higher and that this is 84% of the total import cost. Accordingly, it is expected to save a considerable amount of about USD 512 million spent on the importation of these goods during the last three years without hindering industries and exports.

COPA points out need to raise awareness that national flower of Sri Lanka is the Water Lily’

  • Ministry of Environment instructed to make the public aware of the national flower of Sri Lanka as the ‘Water Lily Flower’ through the National Institute of Education, the University Grants Commission and other relevant agencies as well as newspaper advertisements.
  • Although schools, government and non-government organizations have been made aware of this during awareness programs conducted by the Ministry of Environment, it has not transpired adequately.
  • As per the Cabinet decision taken in June 2015, the Ministry has failed to provide adequate publicity to inform the institutions under the Ministry and other government agencies that the National Flower is the ‘Water Lily Flower’ and the committee observes that the national flower of Sri Lanka is still identified as the ‘Blue Water Lily’ on many occasions.

https://www.parliament.lk/en/committee-news/view/2571?category=33

23 May 

BOC summoned by COPE

BOC summoned to examine Auditor General’s report & current performance of bank.

CBSL Governor summoned before Committee on Public Finance

CBSL Governor, Secretary Ministry of Finance & other officials summoned.

24 May

COPA report – Rs.6259m worth drugs face quality failure from 2011 to 2020 due to improper storage of drugs

  • COPA report discloses 99% drugs given to patients & not possible to recover cost of quality failed drugs from suppliers
  • COPA directs Ministry of Health, Nutrition & Indigenous Medicine to expedite process of facilitating storage of drugs & ensure safety of drugs
  • Temperature in warehouses owned by Medical Supplies Division not maintained properly & medical supplies stored in corridors of central drug warehouses & hospitals
  • Ministry Secretary claims if a system prevails to detect failure of drug as soon as it is received, loss can be recovered from suppliers’ guarantee & if quality testing of 60 drugs can be done by State Pharmaceuticals Corporation situation can be avoided

https://www.parliament.lk/en/committee-news/view/2577?category=33

COPE examines if W M Mendis & Co Ltd obtained loans by mortgaging same property in 2 banks

  • Auditor General’s Reports for 2018 2019 & 2020 of Bank of Ceylon
  • Attention of Committee on W M Mendis & Co & other non-performing loans for past 5 years.
  • Same property mortgaged by W M Mendis & Co to 2 banks (People’s Bank & Bank of Ceylon) – Rs.7b obtained from both banks as loans for the same property. CID asked to conduct investigation
  • In 2020 Board of Directors of BoC had made a pre-mature retirement benefit to former GM with controversial payment of Rs.32,039,733
  • Chairman of BoC stated trade union launched a strike against GM’s retirement & daily loss due to strike was Rs.75m

26 May 

COPA emphasizes National Policy on children

  • The Committee on Public Accounts (COPA) emphasizes that the Department of Probation and Child Care Services should expeditiously develop a National Policy on children in Sri Lanka and give proper guidance in this regard.
  • The COPA report which was presented in the Parliament recently, further states that the Ministry should intervene to allocate funds without disparity when funds for this subject were provided to the Provincial Councils.
  • The Committee also directed the Department of Probation and Child Care Services to pay attention to establishing a probation office for every judicial zone when the National Policy was developed.
  • The Committee has directed the Secretary to the Ministry to amend the Laws and Ordinances applicable to children, including the Adoption of Children Ordinance, and to take necessary steps to amend these Acts expeditiously in accordance with timely requirements.
  • The Secretary to the Ministry said that the process of amending the ordinances had already been commenced and the amendment of the laws relating to the Children and Young Persons Ordinance was at its final stage.
  • The Committee directed the Department of Probation and Child Care to develop a methodology to protect children from abuse when they use internet.
  • The Committee also instructed to develop a programme to create a mass media censorship favorable for society to avoid irregularities committed by mass media in reporting incidents of juvenile crimes. It was disclosed here that a committee has been appointed with the intervention of the Women’s Caucus of Parliament on media regulation in relation to the said matter and its work was being carried out speedily.
    These matters were contained in the first report of the Second Session of the Ninth Parliament of the COPA, which was tabled in Parliament recently (20) by the COPA Chairman Hon. (Prof.) Tissa Vitharana.
  • This report contains information on the investigations of 7 Government Institutions summoned by the Committee on Public Accounts during the period from 04.08.2021 to 19.11.2021 and one Special Audit Report.

30 May

SPC & Medical Supplies Division summoned

  • SPC & Medical Supplies Division of Ministry of Health summoned

1 June

CEB, Univ of Moratuwa & UDA summoned

  • CEB summoned re Auditor General’s report for 2018, 2019
  • UDA summoned
  • University of Moratuwa summoned
  • Ministry of Agriculture summoned
  • Dept of Import & Export Control summoned
  • Ministry of Fisheries summoned
  • Ministry of Trade, Commerce, Food Security, Ministry of Agriculture, Food Commissioners Dept, Dept of Cooperative Development, Cooperative Wholesale Establishment, Consumer Affairs Authority, National Institute of Cooperative Development, Sri Lanka State Trading Corporation, summoned.

Indian Credit Line & other credit lines used to resolve SL’s drug shortage.

  • action to be taken to resolve the drug shortage using Indian credit loan assistance and other credit facilities.
  • recommendations made when officials of State Pharmaceutical Corporation of Sri Lanka summoned to the COPE to discuss the current performance and shortage of drugs in government hospitals as at May 13th 2022
  • despite receiving US$200 million in financial assistance under the Indian credit line facility, by April 22, 2022, the Ministry’s Drug Subcommittee had only recommended a stockpile of medical supplies worth US$55.5 million. Only 28% of that grant, by May 18th, 2022, only US $ 92.9 million had been recommended for invoices.
  • Utilizing the Indian credit line assistance, the World Bank Loan Assistance Scheme (WB), World Health Organization (WHO), Asian Development Bank (ABD) and other donor assistance received for drug procurement as soon as possible were also discussed at the meeting.
  • Total amount of assistance received, including Indian credit line assistance in particular, exceeds US $ 330 million and has not yet been disbursed
  • COPE observed that the computer system established for the management of medical supplies had not been properly updated and used. Company given Rs. 645 million to set up the system and Rs. 5 million a month for its maintenance, but the system was not functioning properly. Due to this, a new computer system started at a lower cost and about 80% of the work has already been completed, officials stated.
  • COPE focused on the methodology for calculating the drug requirement in the country and pointed out the importance of maintaining such a system more accurately.
  • procurement process of State Pharmaceutical Corporation of Sri Lanka (SPC), the Medical Supplies Division of the Ministry of Health (MSD) and the National Drug Regulatory Authority (NMRA) discussed
  • delay in purchasing essential medicines for heart disease, essential medicines for diabetes, medicines used for anesthesia and essential medicines used for allergies and alternative medicines that can be used for such essential medicines. Discussions were also held on resolving the shortage of medicines for the 1990 ambulance service.

9 June

COVID situation – suspension of vehicle imports other than tax policies led to economic collapse – Former Secretary to Ministry of Finance R. Attygalle

  • Unreasonable to claim SL lost nearly Rs.500 billion due to the change in tax policies of the new government, as this was due to the loss caused by the import restrictions imposed, including the suspension of the import of vehicles, and the economic contraction caused by the Covid situation,
  • decisions regarding tax policies taken in keeping with the first Cabinet Paper presented by the former Prime Minister Hon. Mahinda Rajapaksa on December 04, 2019.
  • Former Secretary to the President Dr. P.B. Jayasundara, former Secretary to the Ministry of Finance S. R. Attygalle, former Governor of the Central Bank Ajith Nivard Cabraal, former members of the Monetary Board, current Governor of the Central Bank Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe and other senior officials of the Central Bank were summoned before the Committee Meeting.

10 June

Incorporation of Siyapatha Foundation approved by Legislative Standing Committee

  • Bill was tabled in Parliament by the Minister of Education on 23rd February 2022.

Rs.51,649,961 to be recovered from lecturers of Moratuwa University for violating agreements & bonds

  • 35 university lecturers who went abroad on study leave were in arrears of Rs.51,649,961 as of 31Dec2021 due to breach of contracts & bonds.
  • 16 lecturers breached contracts & bonds for 8 years worth Rs.23,190,595
  • Legal action to be taken against 11 persons
  • The Committee inquired into company called ‘Uni Consultancy’, which operates within the University, not obtaining Cabinet approval. Vice Chancellor stated that the necessary documents have been sent to the University Grants Commission. The Chairman expressed his displeasure over the delay in the process and directed that the process be expedited.
  • ‘LK Domain Registry’, a company established under the University of Moratuwa as a company owned by the University of Moratuwa on 05.03.2004. COPE Chairman recommends that ‘LK Domain Registry’ be treated as a National Value Institution and that its ownership be transferred back to the University of Moratuwa.
  • COPE Chairman commended the University Governing Body for the timely presentation of the University’s Procurement Plan, the presentation of Annual Reports to Parliament and the holding of Audit and Management Committee meetings.

10 June

Special statement of COPE Chairman regarding several institutions 

Nawaloka Group

  • Chairperson of the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) made a special statement regarding several institutions
  • Ranee Jayamaha commenting on Samantha Kumarasinghe a former member of the Monetary Board of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka. COPE Committee tabled the remarks of Samantha Kumarasinghe sent in response. Letter dated May 30th, 2022 containing the observations made by Samantha Kumarasinghe to be included in Committee Report,
  • Regarding the reference made to the Nawaloka Group of Companies pertaining to the non-payment of loans during the COPE’s inquiry into People’s Bank, the Chairman stated that the Nawaloka Group has sent a special letter dated May 30th, 2022 stating that 12 companies under the Nawaloka Group are not involved in the above non-payment of loans tabling the letter sent.
  • State Pharmaceutical Corporation of Sri Lanka, which operates under the Ministry of Health, and the Medical Supplies Division of the Ministry of Health before the COPE, investigations carried out into the computer stock management system of the drug stock and it was based on the facts presented by the then Secretary to the Ministry Dr. Ratnayake.
  • A private company, EWIS Information Systems Ltd, given a statement to the media that the COPE investigation contains a flaw and submitted its position to the Committee in a letter dated June 3rd, 2022. The Chairman said that according to EWIS Information Systems Ltd, they had obtained Rs. 223,120,458.73 million for the above system.
  • State Ministry of Health to the COPE, Rs. 458,591,910.6 million has been paid to EWIS Information Systems and that 66,176,348.98 million has been paid to EWIS Solutions Pvt. Ltd. Accordingly, the total amount paid was Rs. 524,768259.4 million.

10 June

Turn all stalled projects under UDA to successful revenue generating ones.

  • Projects initiated, developed and funded under UDA stalled to be successfully completed & converted to revenue earners
  • a number of projects under the supervision of the Urban Development Authority not in a successful position.
  • Hambantota Development Project, the Meethotamulla Rejuvenation Project and the project to acquire 812 acres from the Millewa Estate to build an industrial park.
  • Expenditure incurred on the construction of the Ruhunupura International Conference Hall under the Hambantota Development Project Plan and the expenditure incurred on maintaining this as a surcharge from 2017 to 2019 were also discussed.
  • 75,889,769 had been spent on this as an expenditure from 2017 to 2019 and the revenue received from this from 2017 to 2019 was Rs. 15,896,360.
  • Officials representing the Urban Development Authority stated that this is one of the components of the Hambantota Urban Development Plan. However, he said that the project was not successful as the plan of the major development project was not implemented. He also said that as this continues to be a loss, the management of two companies will be transferred to make a profit. He also said that the construction of the Ruhunupura International Conference Hall was done with foreign assistance and that the Urban Development Authority had only consulted for this purpose. The officials said that the money belonging to the Urban Development Authority was not spent for this.
  • 5 million provided to a private company in 2020 for the application of a blanket layer leveling 30 to 12 meters for the stabilization of garbage dumps and for the installation of greenhouse gas emission units.
  • Meethotamulla Rehabilitation Project after the Meethotamulla Garbage Landslide in 2017 and its performance was taken into discussion here. However, it was revealed that the location of the stabilized garbage is currently without proper management and supervision. Accordingly, the COPE Chairman recommended that an inquiry be conducted into the matter and a report be submitted within two months.
  • holiday resorts under the Urban Development Authority Existing resorts in all the districts under the Urban Development Authority are located in the most scenic location in that district. Action should be taken to increase government revenue in awarding tenders. The Members of Parliament who were present at the committee meeting also pointed out that the those who take these resorts on rent sometimes obtained it on political affiliations. It was also stated that these resorts are in a dilapidated condition due to improper maintenance. Discussions were also held on the operation of these resorts belonging to the Rest House Company established in the year 2011.
  • COPE recommended to submit plan within a month planning the renovation of these resorts.
  • increasing the number of parking spaces in Colombo daily and increasing the facilities required to cater to the sanitary needs of the people who visit Colombo City daily.
  • providing a long-term lease to a private company for development of the rood to 2 Acre 2 rood 2 21.4 perch land bordering Wijewardena Mawatha, Colombo. The COPE committee also pointed out that the Authority’s failure to formulate and implement an urban land use policy.

10 June

Sri Lanka Electricity (Amendment) Bill

  • Electricity Act No. 20 of 2009
  • The Committee noted that not only the Act but also technical and legal matters should be taken into further consideration.
  • important to encourage foreign and local investors in carrying out renewable energy projects
  • importance of having a committee of the Electricity Board and the Sustainable Energy Authority represented
  • as a solution to the current power crisis, important to implement an expeditious plan for the proper utilization of natural water and wind in the country and to take appropriate action to further strengthen the projects of installing solar panels on roofs and increasing renewable energy. The minister stated that the plan is expected to be tabled in the future
  • issue of kerosene and diesel to be supplied to fishing harbors in the face of the ongoing oil crisis and the issue of water depletion associated with hydro power plants.
  • Sapugaskanda oil refinery and give priority to cooperative filling stations in supplying oil.

15 June

COPE focus on 50 generators purchased at Rs.3100m for 2018,2018 not in working condition when purchased

  • COPE examined the Auditor General’s reports for the years 2017 and 2018 and the current performance of the Ceylon Electricity Board.
  • 50 generators, were not in working condition at the time of purchase. The Committee questioned whether there was a quality check on these purchases and its cost.
  • officials present at pointed out inspection on the purchases was carried and that Rs. 3100 million had been spent for those purchases and that all these 50 generators are still in operation as at today.
  • these generators were not operational at the beginning and was only operational after the upgrade. Accordingly, a formal inquiry should be conducted into the purchase of generators that were not in working condition at the time of purchase, regardless of the time period in which they were purchased.
  • Report to be submitted to the Auditor General withint 2 weeks
  • Ownership of CEB over LTL and whether CEB can deviate from State audit to decide who will audit company. Officials claim 63% shares of company owned by CEB. CEB had been removed from state audit due to technical issue.
  • Purchase of electricity from ACE Embilipitiya Power Station – COPE questioned signing of new agreements on purchase of electricity from plant.
  • COPE inquired about pricing process in drafting new agreement to purchase electricity
  • CEB officials did not give definite answer
  • Long-term generation plan discussed – Auditor Generals dept had not received information on new generation plan for 2022-2041.
  • Information in Generation Plan for 2018-2037 is with Auditor Generals Dept.
  • Officials claim the need to meet 50% renewable energy as per policy of 2019 was placed at 70% with new govt.
  • Generation Plan should not be changed with politics

15 June

Licensing for Ethanol import

  • quantity of ethanol imported for use in Sri Lanka and the lack of proper regulation of importing institutions.
  • The Import and Export Control Department officials instructed to submit a report within two weeks containing the procedure for issuing licenses for the importation of ethanol into the country by various companies, information on each of these companies and the quantity of ethanol imported by those companies. It was also emphasized that the quantity of ethanol imported for other products, including pharmaceuticals, other than alcohol, and the proper use of ethanol for those products should be taken into consideration.
  • issuance of licenses for the importation of vehicles and spare parts to Sri Lanka. 4 months given to prepare plan
  • lack of a standardized computer system to carry out the activities of the Department of Import and Export Control.
  • lack of proper coordination with the Direct Liaison Institutions such as the Excise Department, the Department of Motor Traffic and the Sri Lanka Customs is very problematic in conducting the activities of the Department and was instructed to take the necessary steps to do computer networking immediately.
  • importance of liaising with institutions such as the Information and Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA) and the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission was also emphasized.
  • officials of the Department of Import and Export Control were informed about this in 2016, the work has not been done so far and considering the importance of this, the Chairman of the Committee decided to appoint a Sub-Committee to inquire into its progress.
  • Attention was drawn to the subsequent transfer of vehicles imported under the prize scheme to various parties. Accordingly, after the vehicles were imported under the gift scheme, the officers present were asked about the transfer of the vehicles to other parties. The vehicles imported on a tax concession basis could not be transferred to another party until 05 years. After 5 years of such transfers, the necessary procedures have been put in place to recover the normal tax value of the relevant vehicles. The Committee also emphasized the importance of proper follow-up and regulation of licenses for vehicles imported under the gift scheme.
  • loss of customs duty of Rs.114.6 million due to incorrect customs associated classification numbering of 33 used cars in the year 2017 contrary to the provisions of Gazette Notification No. 1933/13 dated 21st September 2015, Gazette Notifications for Vehicles subject to Licensing Control and Instructions given by the Minister of Development Strategies and the Minister of International Trade and the Minister of State to the Controller of Imports and Exports. It was also informed that the full investigation has been handed over to the CID. The Chairman of the Committee instructed to submit a report on its progress to the Committee within 02 weeks.
  • The Committee also discussed the report of a special audit to study the reduction in the excise duty on a kilogram of sugar from Rs. 50 to Rs. 25 cents and study and the Committee also recently discussed the report of the special audit report to study the non-receipt of the expected relief by the consumers by reducing it to 25 cents. It was further emphasized that the introduction of a licensing system for the importation of sugar and the failure to introduce the criteria required to control the import of sugar and the loss incurred by the government due to the delay in issuing licenses will be taken up for discussion in the Committee on the 21st of this month.

15 June

Ministerial Consultative Committee on Agriculture on Animal Welfare Bill

  • proposed Animal Welfare Bill with support of Government / NGOs and Animal Welfare Groups
  • people are now more interested in-home gardening in the face of the current food crisis,
  • encouraging people to cultivate home gardening as well as the use of land in all government offices for cultivation
  • planned to deploy Army personnel, Civil Defense Force as well as approximately 3,000 prisoners to make this a success
  • the use of unused paddy lands in all areas including the Colombo District as well as reclamation of paddy lands, construction of buildings and irrigation problems.
  • important to establish a committee at the district level and prepare a proper document regarding cultivable paddy lands and non-cultivable lands
  • importance of encouraging rural and urban youth to cultivate fallow paddy lands and briefed the officers on the preparation and implementation of a proper plan for this purpose and the assistance of the Agricultural Research Officers for the continuous cultivation of lands which are not currently cultivated
  • provision of fertilizer from India for paddy and maize in July
  • distribution of fertilizer in a planned manner as well as identifying priorities.
  • damage to the crop – a progressive report to be prepared
  • importance of conducting agro clinics island wide to impart the knowledge required by the people, especially in home gardening activities, and the officials should take active steps accordingly.
  • Ekwa Wawamu – Rata Dinawamu” program to encourage the cultivation of uncultivated lands

16 June

Code of Criminal Procedure (Amendment) Code of Civil Procedure (Amendment) Bills 

  • Bills, to be taken for the second reading in Parliament approved by the Ministerial Consultative Committee on Justice, Prisons and Constitutional Reforms
  • The Code of Criminal Procedure (Amendment) Bill amends Section 442 of the Code of Criminal Procedure Act No. 15 of 1979 to make provision to issue one certified copy of the judgment or final order of the record to each of the parties to the case free of charge.
  • The Code of Civil Procedure (Amendment) Bill inserts new section 154 (A) in the Civil Procedure Code (Chapter 101) and the legal effect of the section is to exempt certain documents from formal proof at any proceedings under this Code.

New Bill to solve labor related 

  • The Industrial Disputes (Special Provisions) Bill, published in the Gazette dated 08th April 2022,
  • Industrial Disputes Act, in cases where an employer has terminated the employment of an employee, only the process finalization of such termination is dealt with under a Labor Tribunal.
  • In cases where the employers do not agree or violate the provisions of various Acts pertaining to the Employees’ Provident Fund, wages, other terms and conditions, litigation will be instituted in the Magistrates’ Courts.
  • more than 16,000 cases have been filed in about 80 Magistrate Courts functioning island wide. It was also stated that it would take a long time for the aggrieved workers to get some justice and if the cases were referred to the 37 established tribunals island wide which are currently conducting very small proceedings, the aggrieved party would be able to expedite justice.
  • Act would delegate the powers of prosecution to the Chairmen of Labour Tribunals. It was further stated that the Labor Tribunals had been given the aforesaid power in the past as well and that many cases could be settled expeditiously and those powers were later abolished.

17 June

Develop 10 year plan to bring economic development to SL – COPA advises Dept of External Resources

  • Department of External Resources advised to prepare a specific 10-year Economic Development Plan aimed at the economic development of the country.
  • The Members of Parliament who participated in this Committee pointed out that this is the best time to formulate such a national plan so that it can function without the influence of any political authority.
  • some of the development projects were halted due to the decisions of the executive. They also pointed out that the officials could not influence it.
  • (Dr.) Harini Amarasuriya, Member of Parliament said that if the political authority takes a wrong decision, the officials should take action to point it out. If there is no mechanism to involve and advise officials on such matters, the COPA will provide the necessary support to make the necessary policy decisions to formulate it.
  • Plans to work with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) were also discussed

17 June 

Education Sector faces challenges more than covid

  • Committee recommends special attention to the learning loss in preparing the Exam Question Papers …
  • COPA commends the officials for maintaining the education sector 
  • learning loss of students in the year 2020 was 54% and by August 2021 it was 88%
  • Committee recommended to the University Grants Commission that the World Bank-funded USD 100 million project be reconsider and put to good use in the face of the ongoing crisis.

20 June

COPA proposes to set up new Cabinet Sub-Committee for Food Security  

  • The requirement for rice to be imported in the future is 800,000 metric tons
  • Discussions to obtain support from SAARC Food Bank and the World Food Program
  • The Auditor General pointed out that food production has been severely hampered by climate change, the war in Russia and Ukraine, the crisis in world wheat, maize and fertilizer production and rising oil prices.
  • In the local context, the production of essential food items has declined due to the recent fertilizer crisis in Sri Lanka, the shortage of foreign exchange reserves and the emergence of a policy crisis regarding the use of pesticides.
  • According to data from the Sri Lanka Customs and Hector Kobbekaduwa Agrarian Research and Training Institute, the Ministry of Commerce has identified sixteen types of food as essential food items. They are Samba rice, Nadu rice, raw rice, sugar, red lentils, wheat flour, big onions, potatoes and canned fish, milk powder, dried sprats, dried chilies, chickpeas, chicken, fish and eggs.
  • officials briefed on the quantity of essential food items produced in the country during the Yala and Maha seasons this year and the quantity of food required to meet the demand of the country.

20 June

COPA focus on application of IT to dept of import & Export control & other Govt institutions contributing towards government revenue

  • ICTA’s involvement in the development of the licensing process of the Department of Imports and Exports, the computer program for integration of institutions and the development of the Revenue Administration Management System.
  • Discussions on the launch of the Institutional Integration Computer Program 2015 related to the licensing process of the Department of Imports and Exports, which is still in an unsuccessful state.
  • ICTA does not provide any intervention or assistance to government institutions, especially those who do not have the knowledge to develop computer programs. He also said that this institution has the responsibility of equipping government institutions with information technology and integrating it with new technology.
  • inability of the Inland Revenue Department to implement the Integrated Computer Program (RAMIS) for tax collection.
  • projects prepared by ICTA in collaboration with the Sri Lanka Excise Department and the External Resources Department
  • COPA finally recommended that the Information and Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA) submit a report by July 1st on the software developed for government agencies, the government agencies that advised and their current status.

21 June

Special COPE meeting decides to take oath regarding statements by officials called before COPE

  • To take an oath at the commencement of the statements made by the officials when summoned before the Committee.
  • COPE tabled the statement withdrawal letter dated 11.06.2022 pertaining to the statement made on 10.06.2022 at COPE by the former CEB Chairman Mr. M.M.C. Ferdinando.
  • Today we considered the letter sent to COPE by the Chairman of the CEB on 06.11.2022. An important discussion took place in accordance to that letter. Today, I would like to draw your attention to certain points in this letter that has been submitted as an appendix to it. Accordingly, the decision of COPE is that the former Chairman Mr. M.M.C. Ferdinando will be summoned before the Committee again to hold discussions with him and thereby re-determine the contents of this letter and then take the decision regarding expunging the respective contents of his testimony as requested.”
  • It was decided to summon Mr. M.M.C. Ferdinando before COPE on 23.06.2022

22 June

Demand for liquor decreased by 30% due to price increase

  • due to the sudden price hike there is a tendency to increase the production of illicit liquor.

COPE decides to hold special meeting to look into power generation, procurement, distribution & projects of CEB

  • Members of Parliament who were present pointed out discrepancies in what’s been said pertaining to the issues raised in the discussions regarding the purchases, distributions and projects of the Ceylon Electricity Board.
  • members requested the Chairman of COPE to inform the Parliament and the Speaker to appoint a Select Committee to look into all matters including the generation plan.
  • The Chairman of COPE pointed out that the Committee could hold a special meeting to look into this matter.
  • Accordingly, it was revealed that Rs. 2,134.9 million has been provided as these allowances in the year 2021 and Rs. 1,544.4 million in the year 2020. The COPE Chairman pointed out that there should be accountability for this money as it is public money. He also pointed out that some of the categories used for the payment of allowances were ridiculous. For example, in addition to ‘reading the meter’, there is also an allowance for ‘reading the meter correctly’,
  • annual expenditure of the Ceylon Electricity Board exceeds the revenue expected by the Inland Revenue Department through all taxes.
  • decision taken by the Cabinet in December 2007 to revise the salaries and when the collective agreement was reached in May 2015, it was decided to shift the liability for PAYE and Advanced Personal Income Tax (APIT) to the employees but from 2010 onwards.
  • Ceylon Electricity Board paid Rs.4.8 billion (PAYE / APIT) in taxes from its fund without deducting the salaries of the employees till 2020. Officials who were present pointed out that the payment of this tax has been stopped by now.
  • draft collective agreement, the Ceylon Electricity Board had increased the salaries of employees by 25% in the year 2021. However, it was revealed that this was not a legal document as it was an unfinished draft agreement as the relevant parties, employers and unions had not signed the draft.
  • adverse impact on the Board due to this unauthorized payment was approximately Rs.9.6 billion,.
  • The COPE chairman pointed out that the institution appears to be non-state-owned.
  • according to the 2018-2034 long term power generation plan, the Seethawaka River Hydro Power Project should have been implemented by 2022. suspension of the project at a cost of Rs. 301.19 million at the end of 2020.
  • Members of Parliament stated that feasibility study at a cost of Rs.301.19 million has been carried out and that the project has been dropped halfway, indicating that it is not up to the appropriate feasibility level.
  • A consignment of coal purchased from Taurian Iron & steel Co. Pvt. Ltd (TISCL) through Ceylon Coal Company (LCC) in 2013 could not be unloaded due to the monsoon, and the annual new generation of power generated according to the long-term generation plan was varied. Extraction from power plants and various energy sources was also discussed at length.

24 June

Select Committee to identify appropriate Reforms of Election laws & Electoral System

  • Recommend necessary Amendments presented to Parliament on 22nd June by its Chairman the Minister of Public Administration, Home Affairs, Provincial Councils and Local Government and Leader of the House of Parliament, Hon. Dinesh Gunawardena.

https://www.parliament.lk/uploads/comreports/1655963940091379.pdf

27 June

COPA instructs officials to prepare quick road map for gas mining 

  • Detailed road map for excavations in the country for the purpose of obtaining gas and crude oil.
  • Officials presented Liquefied Natural Gas Mining Projects (LNG) pointed out that there are various obstacles to these mining.
  • Members of Parliament present inquired about the parties involved.
  • They also asked if the excavations required the advice of foreign governments. Officials present said there was no need for such advice from other governments.

There are some major areas where politicians have to take full accountability not pass the buck to the public officials. While public officials cannot be excused for the majority of them have deteriorated into corrupt practices as well, this cannot be said of the entire public service. However, the corrupt politicians and the corrupt public officials must be weeded out from the system and legally charged for their role in wasting the wealth of the nation.

ShenalI D Waduge

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