As controversy swirled over the shocking first report of the parliamentary Committee on Public Enterprises and the government’s inaction on it, COPE yesterday issued an even more shocking second report disclosing financial malpractices to the tune of a staggering six billion rupees in another 20 state institutions.
In this second report, COPE Chairman Wijeyadasa Rajapaksa said the Foreign Employment Bureau had failed to pay compensation to 11,130 repatriated workers affected by the Kuwaiti war of 1991, despite Rs.1.6 billion being allocated to it for this purpose. Mr. Rajapaksa described this as a matter of grave concern.
He said COPE had examined allegations of financial frauds at the National Housing Development Authority which had sold a land belonging to it at Kirimandala Mawatha in Narahenpita for a mere Rs.75 million while its actual value was about Rs.4,000 million. There was no cabinet approval for this sale.
The report said that in another instance the Authority had put up 35 houses on a land in Kandy which did not belong to it.
“This is another case of blatant waste of public funds,” the COPE Chairman said.
He said the Authority had sold an apartment in the Liberty Plaza shopping complex for Rs. 7.5 million while its value was Rs. 111 million.
Referring to the Sri Lanka Cashew Corporation, he said it was a ‘white elephant’ which did little that was productive and failed to achieve its targets.
The COPE Chairman said the National Gem and Jewellery Authority was another state body which did not make a contribution towards the development of the country.
The report said the Authority lacked vision and an action plan and was managed inefficiently. Mr. Rajapaksa said Rs.92 million had been allocated in 2001 to establish a laboratory to test gems and assess their values.
“So far little has been done and as a result, the government has lost a large amount of income”, he said.
Mr. Rajapakse said because of the inefficiency of the Coconut Development Board the revenue accumulated through coconut exports had declined by 33 percent from 2000 to date, however, the expenditure of the Board had increased by 107 percent.
COPE found the Exports Development Board and the Building Material Corporation as two other state bodies being managed without proper plans to serve the interests of the country.
The report said the National Transport Commission had issued 442 route permits deviating from the usual legal procedure.
The COPE also reported on financial irregularities at the Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Ltd., Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation, Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation, the Consumer Affairs Authority and the Mahapola Higher Education Trust Fund. Mr.Rajapaksa said the country had lost around Rs.1,200 million because of an online lottery started by using monies form the Mahapola Fund.
“The Mahapola Fund was started by the late Minister Lalith Athulathmudali to promote welfare facilities to students.
Its monies have been used for the online lottery even without approval from the Attorney General,” he said.
COPE submitted its first report on January last year.
There has been widespread criticism against the government for failing to take action against errant politicians and officials involved in instances of corruption.
Parliament had a full-days debate on the first report with the Chief Government Whip Jeyaraj Fernandopulle agreeing to have a two-day debate on the second report.