US steps into assist transport sector amidst heavy losses in SLTB

The United States government has stepped in to assist  Sri Lanka’s transport sector even amidst losses incurred by Sri Lanka Transport Board due to irregularities, corruption and mismanagement Financial analysts said adding alarming details of such practices unveiled by the Committee on Public  Enterprises.(COPE ).       

However the Chief Political/Economic Officer of the US Embassy in Sri Lanka, Ms. Susan Walke, said on Thursday 07 that the US government would extend all possible assistance to boost the transport industry in Sri Lanka.

She made this statement during a meeting held with Transport Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi at the Transport Ministry.

During the discussion, Minister Wanniarachchi said the Ministry is on a stand to improve the quality of the transport sector in the country and to use new technology for this purpose.

The total revenue of Sri Lanka Transport Board (SLTB) has dropped to Rs. 8.74 billion during the first four and half months this year from Rs 10.86 billion during the same period last year, unaudited financial statements showed.

The number of kilometerage and buses operated during this period was also cut down due to the imposition of COVID-19 related mobility restrictions in 1Q this year and the countrywide-wide unofficial lockdown imposed from May 13.

The island-wide lockdown imposed from mid-March to end-April last year resulted in a temporary suspension of public passenger transportation.

Although public passenger transportation activities gradually improved with the easing of mobility restrictions from early May, transport activities were again affected in the final quarter of 2020 due to localised lockdowns, a senior ministry official said. .

During 2020, the average number of buses operated by the SLTB declined to 4,045 from 5,048 in 2019, he disclosed.

According to provisional unaudited financial statements, total revenue of the SLTB declined by 28.2 per cent to Rs. 31.2 billion owing to reduced passenger movements.

The SLTB, which had been operationally profitable in recent years, reported an operating loss of Rs. 2.3 billion in 2020 compared to an operating profit of Rs. 1.6 billion recorded in 2019.

The Sri Lanka Transport Board (SLTB) has spent Rs. 89 million exceeding the estimated amount on the purchase of computers in 2018 without due process, the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) said.

Moreover, the committee also noted that an agreement had been entered into with a private company for at a cost of Rs. 33,628,840 to purchase equipment required to maintain the system required for Cameras and GPS for 125 luxury buses.

However, the COPE Committee disclosed that all except for a few of these devices were not working properly.

COPE also questioned the officials present regarding the failure to present the annual reports for the years 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 in Parliament.

According to the procurement plan for the year 2018, it was planned to purchase 1,000 electronic bus ticket machines at a cost of Rs. 35 million with the approval of the Board of Directors.

However, in 2018, Rs. 75,900,000 was spent to buy 2,000 electronic bus ticket machines.

Accordingly, the 1000 electronic bus ticket machines had been purchased without approval and the Committee noted that these machines had not met the intended objectives.

Also discussed were the issues of several posts in the Board of Directors, the number of 5,921 buses in operation, the number of buses currently out of service and 2,742 buses which are 10 years old.

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