Bypassed Regulations, Undelivered Goods
By Nirmala Kannangara
Chief Minister of Central Province Sarath Ekanayake has come under severe criticism for aiding and abating to bypassing government regulations when awarding contracts at the ongoing Digana International Athletics Stadium project.
The foundation stone was laid on December 19, 2004 with an estimated cost of Rs.1,018 billion for a pavilion with 10,000 seating capacity, 400 metre long eight running track, 50 metre long eight track swimming pool, 120×75 meter football ground, 350 square meter netball court, 350 square metertennis court, 20×40 feet conference hall, baseball and basketball courts and for a car park.
It has now come to light that payments have been made to the tune of Rs.175,759 million to a Consultancy Firm although they have failed to provide satisfactory consultation work and for the building contractor- Gunathilaka Constructions for uncompleted work.
Chief Minister Ekanayake is being accused of not hiring the Department of Engineering Services of the Central Provincial Council As the consistence for the project. Instead it was awarded to Design Consortium – a consultancy company with less experience that does not comply with government standards. According to the documents The Sunday Leader is in possession, although tenders were called on November 2004 for prospective bidders who have provided services for projects worth 20 million rupees, the selected bidder- Design Consortium did not qualify under this criteria.
He is further accused of awarding the pavilion construction tender to one of the higher bidders- Gunathilaka Construction Company (Pvt) Ltd when three companies had made lower bids. As a result the Central Province Sports and Industrial Ministry who is footing the project expenses have lost several million rupees.
According to the documents, Gunathilaka Constructions made a bid of Rs.305,907 million while VV Karunaratne and Company’s bid was for Rs. 272,316 while Sanken Lankan (Pvt) Ltd made a bid of Rs. 295,610 million. Conmix (Pvt) Ltd too has bid Rs. 9, 482 million less than the successful bidder.
The Additional Auditor General A. U. Dassanayake in an audit query dated September 20, 2010 has requested Ekanayake to explain as to why he has failed to follow government guidelines when awarding contracts which has incurred losses to the Provincial Sports and Industrial Ministry. The Auditor Generals’ department has also raised questions regarding the Consultancy Firm – Design Consortium that has been paid just over Rs. 17 million for unprofessional work.
Although Design Consortium has drawn ground plans for a 210×136 meter stadium, it was later revealed that these plans have been drawn without a proper land survey and that the stadium did not fit into the selected land as the length of the land was only 188.68 metres and the width was 99.21 metres. Further they have failed to do a feasibility test although a Rs. 3 million has been paid for the test.
They have further failed to obtain an Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) report, Pradeshiya Sabha approvals for building constructions and several other approvals for the project according to the Auditor Generals’ report. According to the report, Digana stadium has not only failed to comply with international standard but not met standards to hold school events. It further states as to how the Provincial Council has paid Rs. 3 million to the consultancy firm by voucher no: 233 of July 29, 2005 for the initial project plans although the amount should be only Rs. 2. 25 million.
However the provincial council has further paid another Rs. 3.7 million by voucher no:107 of October 7, 2005 for the same work which clearly shows as to how the consultancy firm was able to obtain an additional Rs. 4.5 million for the initial project plan.
According to the audit query, it has also come to light that the provincial council has paid Rs. 3.315 million for two caretakers at the project site from 2006 to 2009 although no construction work has not been carried out during this period. In addition the Chief Minister has been requested to inform the auditor general’s Department as to what action he would take against the officers who have failed to follow government rules and regulations resulting in extra cost f Rs. 29.461 million.
The report further alleges that tender board members had failed to conduct the tender procedures transparently and had not furnished any information to the unsuccessful bidders even on their requests.Meanwhile a physical audit inspection carried out on September 1, 2010 at the Digana project site has revealed that the provincial council has paid for undelivered 137 mt tons of Tor iron on December 25, 2009.
The provincial council has paid for ‘Melwa’ tor iron through voucher no:372 of December 25, 2009 although there were no ‘Melwa’ iron found at the construction site but only ‘Lanva’ iron.
However refuting the allegations, Chief Minister Central Province Sarath Ekanayake said that he has not bypassed government tender procedure or financial regulations. “All these allegations are made by the parties who have not qualified to obtain the tenders. My councilhas carried out all tender procedures transparently and no one can question it. Not even the auditor Generals’ department. On what basis is these allegations been made? This project was initiated in 2004 and where was this so called Additional Auditor General all these years. Why couldn’t he send his queries earlier? These are done merely on jealously,” said the Chief Minister. He further accused ‘higher officials’ for trying to get the contracts to their ‘hi fi’ friends who have studied with them in leading schools. “These so called higher officials came behind me and kept on contacting me to get these tenders for their friends. Since I am a clean politician that has not robbed a single cent from the general public I stood by my decisions and rejected their requests. That is why they are now getting the Auditor General’s Department to send queries and conducts audits of this project,” he said. Ekanayake said that he has neither replied the audit query nor know as to what the contents were.
“May be my officials have replied for the audit query but I never saw it. How can I say that I am at fault when I am not. No one can point a finger at me as I have discharged my duties transparently,” he said.