Former Housing Minister Wimal Weerawansa had 68 rented vehicles, during his ministerial tenure, brazenly violating the government’s circular and causing a loss of millions of rupees to the then government, Financial Crime Investigation Division (FCID) sources said. FCID inquiries have revealed that the large fleet of vehicles used by him and his private staff had cost the State Engineering Corporation (SEC) and Presidential Secretariat a whopping Rs. 70 million as rent for two years.
“The amount did not cover the expenses for fuel and drivers’ salaries”, a source at the FCID said.
The government circular which spelt out the criteria and the number of vehicles permitted for the use of a Minister’s private staff, issued by the President’s Secretary, stated that eight vehicles could be used by a Minister and his private staff.
A Minister is permitted to use three vehicles. His Private Secretary, two Co-ordinating Secretaries, a Public Relations Officer and the Media Secretary are entitled to one vehicle each. Weerawansa had obtained eight vehicles and used five additional vehicles, on the ministry account. These five vehicles were JV – 5351¸ KG – 6810¸ KH – 5211¸ GD – 7251¸ and KG – 0356.
All 68 vehicles had allegedly been used by the former minister, his private staff, family members and the leaders of the National Freedom Party (NFP) for their personal use, business or political work.
For nearly 50 vehicles, the SEC paid a monthly rent ranging from Rs.38,000-45,000s. All vehicles had enjoyed an unlimited fuel supply.
On the request of Weerawansa, the Presidential Secretariat provided seven vehicles for his private staff. These vehicles too had been obtained on a rental basis. The rent for 15 months for the seven vehicles had been Rs. 44 million. In addition to the rent, the Presidential Secretariat had also paid VAT. Hired from a company owned by a close associate of Weerawansa, the vehicles had been used mostly for his political propaganda, the FCID sources said adding that his actions amounted to misappropriation of state property and that he could be prosecuted under the Public Property Act.