Corruption: Spotlight on state-run bus service
It has been revealed at the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) that the Sri Lanka Transport Board (SLTB) spent Rs. 89 million in excess of the amount of funds allocated for the purchase of computers in 2018.
The SLTB had planned to purchase 139 computers and 74 laptops for the year 2018 at an estimated cost of Rs. 15,290,000, but acquired 800 computers and 47 laptops at a cost of Rs. 113,303,750. As a result, a staggering Rs. 89,977,500 was spent on the purchase of computers in 2018, in excess of the amount allocated through the General Accounts of the Transport Board, the COPE revealed.
This disclosure was made at the COPE meeting chaired by Prof. Charitha Herath, Member of Parliament. The Committee met on Wednesday (06) to examine the Auditor General’s Reports for the years 2017 and 2018 and its current performance in Parliament.
The COPE chairman expressed his displeasure at spending so much of money without following due process. Condemning the practice, he said that an institution which was supposed to serve the ordinary people, spending money in that manner could not be justified on any grounds. It was also disclosed that an agreement had been entered into with a private company to purchase equipment required to main tain the system required for cameras and GPS for 125 luxury buses at a cost of Rs. 33,628,840 . However, all except for a few of the devices were not working properly. Officials present at the Committee said that the employees of those buses had deliberately damaged the equipment and that an investigation was being carried out. The officials also promised to submit a report as soon as the investigation was completed. They said that if the warranty period had not expired, measures would be taken to get all equipment not in working condition repaired by the relevant company.
Attention was also drawn to the fact that the bank loan of Rs. 150,000,000 obtained on 24 December 2018 without the Minister of Finance approval. The COPE chairman pointed out that such a loan amount could not be obtained by a few officials. Therefore, COPE recommended that immediate action be taken in that regard.
The COPE also questioned the officials present regarding the SLTB’s failure to present the annual reports for the years 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 in Parliament. Officials pointed out that there were some concerns regarding printing during that period. However, the annual reports for 2017 and 2018 had already been submitted to the Ministry, officials said. Accordingly, the COPE ordered that all those reports be tabled in Parliament before 31 December.
According to the procurement plan for the year 2018, 1000 electronic bus ticket machines were to be purchased at a cost of Rs. 35 million with the approval of the Board of Directors. However, in the same year, Rs. 75,900,000 was spent on 2000 electronic bus ticket machines. Accordingly, 1000 electronic bus ticket machines were purchased without approval, and the COPE noted that those machines had not met the intended objectives. Therefore, it was recommended that a report be submitted to the COPE within a month in that regard.
Also discussed were the issues of several posts in the Board of Directors, the 5,921 buses in operation, the number of buses currently out of service and 2,742 buses which are 10 years old.
Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage, State Minister D. V. Chanaka, Members of Parliament Rauff Hakeem, Jagath Pushpakumara, Madhura Withanage, and Premnath C. Dolawatte were present at the meeting. Member of Parliament (Dr.) Harsha de Silva and other officials joined the meeting via zoom technology. The Secretary to the Ministry of Transport and other officials of the Sri Lanka Transport Board were also in attendance at the meeting.