- Presidential Secretariat spent billions of rupees for hiring luxury vehicles for ex-President’s friends, family and cronies
by Nirmala Kannangara
Similar to how the State Engineering Corporation (SEC) under Wimal Weerawansa hired vehicles without following government tender procedure, the Presidential Secretariat under former President Mahinda Rajapaksa too had hired vehicles from parties known to them without following tender procedure. Amongst the beneficiaries of these vehicles were former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, former Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa, former Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa, the Youth Affairs Unit which is alleged to be the arm of Namal Rajapaksa’s Nil Balakaya, Mahinda Rajapaksa’s younger brother Chandra Rajapaksa, brother-in law Dr. Lalith Chandradasa and nephews Malaka Chandradasa and Himal Hettiarachchi.
Apart from the immediate family members, certain parliamentarians, temples, Rajapaksa’s party offices in the Hambantota district, close relatives and even the National Freedom Front (NFF) of Wimal Weerawansa have benefitted from the Presidential Secretariat.
According to the vehicle lease report The Sunday Leader is in possession of, five motor cars bearing registration numbers KM 8583, KP 2383, KR 5382, KP 2382 and GY 9384 were leased on November one, 2013, January one, 2014, November one, 2013, October 24, 2014 and May one, 2014 for close relatives to the tune of Rs. 50, 000, Rs.45,000, Rs.120,000, Rs.50,000 and Rs.50,000 per month respectively.
Relatives get Vehicles
Meanwhile a relative of Weerawansa had been given a Montero Sport bearing registration number KT 5335 which was leased for Rs.150,000 per month while five NFF members were given a Toyota Allion 240, double cab, a Navara cab a double cab, a Toyota Allion 260 and Toyota Premio respectively. These vehicles bearing numbers KO 1375, PB 0645, PE 6432, JP 4312, KO 9480 and KO 9416 were leased for Rs.80,000, Rs.120,000, Rs.120,000, Rs.120,000, Rs.80,000 and Rs.80,000 per month respectively.
Although Gotabaya Rajapaksa as the then Defence Secretary used a fleet of Defence Ministry vehicles, he was allegedly allocated five Defender Jeeps and a High-Security vehicle from the Presidential Secretariat. The former Defence Secretary was given a Range Rover High – Security Jeep bearing registration number KC-8511 and five Defender Jeeps bearing registration numbers WPKX-2439, WPKX-2352, WPKX- 2440, WPKX- 2415 and WPKX- 2454.
“What made the Presidential Secretariat issue these vehicles to him despite him being provided enough and more high-security vehicles and back-up vehicles for his use from the Defence Ministry? This shows how the Rajapaksas were misusing public property for their whims and fancies at taxpayers’ expense,” reliable sources from the Presidential Secretariat who wished to remain anonymous said.
Former Speaker gets vehicles
Former Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa too was given vehicles from the Presidential Secretariat although the office of the Speaker had allocated a fleet of vehicles for him from Parliament.Although Basil Rajapaksa obtained a fleet of vehicles from the Economic Development Ministry he was also allegedly given a high-security Range Rover WPKC-8510 from the Presidential Secretariat. Even younger brother Chandra Rajapaksa had been given a Defender Jeep bearing registration number WPKX 2423 all borne by public expense. Meanwhile, former Chief Minister of Uva Province Sasheendra Rajapaksa who was Mahinda Rajapaksa’s Private Secretary and is alleged to not have physically carried out duties but was there in name-only had been given an unregistered Benz car (A-362396) and three Defender Jeeps bearing registration numbers WPKC-2274, WPKX- 2426 and WPKX 2435.
Rajapaksa’s sister’s husband Dr. Lalith Chandradasa had allegedly been given a Nissan Double Cab (PD-8011) and a Toyota Corolla car (KV-4295) for his use while his son Malaka Chandradasa who was the then Defence Secretary’s Coordinating Secretary was allegedly given a Nissan Sylphy car (WPKX- 8232) although he was provided vehicles from the Defence Ministry as well. Another nephew of Rajapaksa who was one of the alleged investors of the Carlton Sports Network (CSN) Himal Hettiarachchi too had allegedly been given a Defender Jeep WPKX- 2451 from the Presidential Secretariat.
Meanwhile former Monitoring MP to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs who was also a close confidant of Mahinda Rajapaksa, Sajin Vass Gunawardena, too had been given a fleet of luxury vehicles although he had used yet another fleet of luxury vehicles obtained from the Foreign Affairs Ministry. Vass Gunawardena had used a High Security vehicle bearing registration number WPKD-3218 and Toyota Land Cruiser Jeep KE-0610, Defender Jeep KC-2280, Bolero Jeep PA-7086, Toyota Hilux LG-8732, BMW KB-9240 and Defender Jeep- WPKX- 2457.
The Youth Affairs Unit alleged to be an arm of Nil Balakaya had been given a Nissan Sunny (301-2859), Toyota van (WPKC- 0107), Toyota Land Cruiser Jeep (WPFZ- 9170), Toyota Hilux (LH-1670), Commando Jeep (KI-6569), Nissan Double Cab (PD-8001) and another Double Cab (PF-5829).
The former President’s Senior Advisor meanwhile had been given not only high-security vehicles but also an Ambulance bearing registration number LW-0962. The Senior Advisor had been assigned a Tata Single Cab (LC-6632), Defender Jeeps bearing numbers WPKB-7604, KC-2271, WPKX- 2239 and WPKX -2368 while an unregistered Benz car (A-385178), High Security Jeep (KL-0336), Land Rover (KH-4184) and Benz High Security Car (KY-1090) too were allocated to him.
Meanwhile President Rajapaksa’s Secretary Lalith Weeratunge who did not face any security threats had been given a Volvo High- Security vehicle (KD-5285), another vehicle bearing registration number KI-3092, a Defender Jeep (WPKX-2396) and a Ford Everest Jeep (WP CAB 3462) while the former Chief of Staff who is now under investigation for accumulating a vast wealth whilst in office had been given Defender Jeep (KC-2275), Bolero Cab (CH-72061524), Trisler Wagon (PB-6265), Toyota Hilux Cab (PE-1632), Lexus (KP-3937) and Defender Jeep (WPKX -2451) from the Secretariat.
Rajapaksa’s Cousin Upul Dissanayake who was the Co-ordinating Secretary was given a Mitsubishi Montero Jeep (KG-5473) while Kithsiri Ganganatha Abeygunawardena, another Coordinating Secretary, had been assigned a Nissan Petrol Jeep (GD-7263), Toyota Land Cruiser Jeep (KE-0826), Tata Cab (LD-1103), Tata Cab (LD-1125) and Toyota car (KC-0952).
Amongst the other Co-ordinating Secretaries who had received vehicles from the Presidential Secretariat were Ananda (Hambantota Party Office) – Pajero Jeep (65-1097), Amarasiri Kudagalara – Suzuki Liana (WPKA -9813), Co-ordinating Secretary (Hambantota District Office) – Defender (WPGE- 1789), Chaminda Rajapaksa – Defender Jeep (WPGE-1790), Bindu (Eastern Province) – Nissan Petrol (WPGD- 7209), Chaminda Kularatne – BMW (WPGF – 1092), Kapila Dissanayake – Defender Jeep (WPKB-7613), Kithsiri Sepala Defender Jeep (WPKB-7601), Rasanga Gunaratne (Tangalle Office) – Volvo S80 Car (65-5974), Daya Gallage – Toyota Merc (KH-9067), S. A. Rafeel (District Co-ordinator Pasikudha) Toyota Hilux (LH-1661), Cyril Munasinghe (Beliatta Office) – Pajero Jeep (32-0962), Mahesh Vidanapathirana – Toyota Cab (WPPC- 3362), Mrs. Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra – Toyota Land Cruiser Jeep (GP-3121), Keerthi Dissanayake – Toyota Land Cruiser (WPKX- 5289), Chaminda Gamage – Double Cab (WPPF- 6493) and Sudharsha Ganegoda – Double Cab (WPPF 6495).
MPs get vehicles
Although MPs are given duty free permits to purchase vehicles and all parliamentarians do have their own vehicles, certain MPs were still given vehicles from the Presidential Secretariat vehicle pool. They are V. K. Indika (MP for Hambantota District) – Benz WPHJ 8859, P. Dayaratne (MP for Ampara District) – Defender WPGE 2036, Minister Nirmala Kothalawala (Kalutara District) – Defender WPGE 1809, Deputy Minister Susantha Punchinilame, (Ratnapura District) –Bolero Cab WPPA 7079 and Bolero Cab WPPA 7084, Sri Rangha – Toyota Land Cruiser Jeep KE-0604 and Micro Car KI-2663, Vadivel Suresh – Toyota Land Cruiser KE-0829, Wimal Weerawansa (Colombo District) – Scorpio Jeep PA-1369, Nishantha Muthuhettigama (Galle District) – Bolero Cab LG-7493, S.B. Dissanayake – Nissan Teana KI-2484, Bandara – Toyota Hilux LH-1671, Manusha Nanayakkara (Galle District) – Kyron Rexton Jeep KJ-0703 and Earl Gunasekera (Polonnaruwa District) Kyron Rexton Jeep KJ-0796.
Meanwhile Buddhist temples and Chief Incumbents who were supporters of Mahinda Rajapaksa too benefitted from the Presidential Secretariat. They were Ven. Elle Gunawansa – Chevrolet Double Cab WPPA-6063, Ven. Bengamuve Nalaka – Tata Sumo Jeep (KE-9174), Mahanayaka of the Rohana Sect – Land Rover Jeep (KJ-2067), Chief Incumbent Ruwanweli Maha Seya – Nissan Double Cab (PD-7984), Ven. Ellawala Medhalankara – Toyota Double Cab (PF-0053), Ven. Pallattara Sumanajothi – Hyundai Accent (WPKA- 9784), Ven. Matale Amarawansa – Toyota Carina (WPGJ-8390), Sithulpawwa Temple – Double Cab (252-6539) and Ambulance (LW-0575) , Gangaramaya Temple – Toyota Land Cruiser Jeep (WPKC- 0279), Deniyaya Temple – Bolero Cab (LG-7483), Hellala Temple – Bolero Cab (LG-7488), Siyambalanduwa Temple – Bolero Cab (LG-7492) and Kataragama Devalaya (PB-9872).
It is also interesting to note that Captain Tissa who is alleged to have been involved in Wasim Thajudeen’s murder too was given a Tata Safari (CUZN-00902), Tata Safari (CUZN 01006) and a high-security Defender Jeep (KD-2047). “If Captain Tissa was in the Presidential Security Division (PSD) what made the Presidential Secretariat issue him two Tata Safari Jeeps and a high-security Defender? Was Capt. Tissa’s life in danger to provide him with a high-security vehicle and was he discharging his duties in Colombo or in wildlife sanctuaries?” sources queried.
Despite the fact that all tri-forces have their own vehicles, the Navy Commander under whom Yoshitha Rajapaksa was working too had been given a BMW high-security (WPGD-7072) while Ranna Navy Camp, Hakmana and Nuwara Eliya Army Camps were given Bolero Cab (LG-7496), Bolero Cab (LG-7485) and Bolero Cab (LG-7495) respectively.
Dullas Alahapperuma had been given Nissan Sunny WPGH-7830 and Toyota Land Cruiser Jeep KE-0791 while Jackson Anthony had used China Double Cab PB-8004, Rohan Welivita Toyota Corolla KE-8607 and Milinda Moragoda Defender Jeep KB-7607.
Rajapaksa’s political offices in Tangalle, Hambantota and Beliatta had been using Double Cab 252-6491, Land Rover Jeep KH-1173, China Double Cab PB-8000, Chevrolet Double Cab WPPA 6062, Volvo S80 Car 65-5973, Toyota Jeep KI-1678, Toyota Hilux LH-1679, Double Cab WPPF- 6497,Toyota Van WPPA-7176, Bolero Cab WPPA-7073 and UR-6012 for Rajapaksa’s and his son Namal Rajapaksa’s political campaign work. Even Chairman Pradeshiya Sabha, Embilipitiya had been given a Defender WPGE-2035 from the Presidential Secretariat vehicle pool. Although as per government financial regulations it is a mandatory requirement to call for tenders when obtaining vehicles on lease, the Presidential Secretariat had violated all norms and rules when obtaining vehicles on lease.
“Although there are strict regulations on how to issue vehicles on lease agreements, these procedures had never been followed,” sources said.
It is almost one year and four months since President Maithripala Sirisena took over office from Mahinda Rajapaksa but it is surprising as to why officials at the Presidential Secretariat have so far failed to hold inquiries and bring the former officials who have violated government rules and regulations for personal benefit, to book.
When The Sunday Leader checked out the list of names of the recipients of these leased vehicles and from whom they were leased, there were many instances where the recipients had leased vehicles from their own family members, close relatives or even friends.
“This is why we say that officials during the Rajapaksa regime never obeyed government rules but carried out their work on the directives of their superiors,” sources added.
Meanwhile highly reliable sources from the Auditor General’s Department who wished to remain anonymous said that it is highly irregular not to follow tender procedure when a government department wants to obtain vehicles on lease agreements.
Audits not carried out
“Although the Auditor General’s Department has an office at the Presidential Secretariat, none of the officers wanted to carry out proper audits during the previous regime, as they knew what the consequences would be. If the AG’s department was allowed to carry out proper audits, these public officers would have known that they would be exposed and wouldn’t have engaged in any irregularity in fear,” sources said.
According to the sources, if a vehicle is leased, the maximum price that can be paid to the lessee cannot exceed Rs. 40,000 although there are many instances where the Presidential Secretariat had paid even Rs.130,000 per vehicle.
“If our audit officers were allowed to carry out audits, our officers could have unearthed these irregularities and would have gone to the extent of checking who the real owner of the vehicle was and the relationship to the recipient.
As they wanted to carry out these illegal activities, our officers were barred from carrying out proper audits,” sources alleged.
Sources meanwhile added that it is up to President Sirisena to appoint a committee to find out as to why high security vehicles were given to certain parliamentarians and other officials spending millions in public funds when there was no war in the country from May, 2009.
Meanwhile it is questionable as to why ambulances were given to Shiranthi Rajapaksa’s Carlton Pre-Schools on government expense when government hospitals in the country do not have enough ambulances to transport patients.
“This is daylight robbery. It is surprising as to why the government has still failed to inquire into these irregularities and take legal action against those who were responsible for misusing public money for their own pleasure,” sources said.