IPM Funds Wasted On Foreign Tours And Tamashas?
by Nirmala Kannangara
The Institute of Personnel Management (IPM), which was once said to be the nation’s leader in human resources management, has allegedly been converted into a den of thieves.
Founded in 1959 and incorporated by an Act of Parliament in 1976, IPM is a tax exempted institute engaged in professional education. However allegations are now being leveled that this tax immunity is being abused and that certain IPM Council Members over the past two years under the tenure of the current President Rohitha Amarapala are allegedly wasting the IPM revenue for foreign tours and frequent tamashas serving the most expensive foreign hard liquor available in the country.
The IPM from its inception until recently was a highly respected educational institute.
However, IPM has now been allegedly infected with unreliable and unscrupulous members and the top management is silent without taking any action against those who are accused of allegations. Since Amarapala’s failure to hold inquiries against members facing various allegations, the membership of IPM which amounts to nearly 1000 members are gearing to take action against the top management, The Sunday Leader learns.
A group of reliable IPM sources who wished to remain anonymous accused Amarapala of safeguarding his deputy, IPM Vice President Shanaka Fernando who is accused of an alleged attempt to swindle the institute’s funds to the tune of over Rs. 50 million.
Hailing the government’s decision to introduce a 15% tax on all institutes that were earlier exempted from taxes, sources said the IPM management is highly worried about the taxes imposed through the 2016 budget.
“From the 2016 budget, all institutes who were enjoying tax exemptions were imposed a 15% tax about which the IPM top management is highly worried. Other than a few who are partying and globe-trotting from the money the institute saved over the years all others have welcome the new 15% tax. Rather than wasting the revenue by certain council members, it is good to pay taxes to the country as the government needs more revenue to develop the country,” sources added.
“When the IPM decided to buy a property in Kandy, it was decided to look for a suitable place. It was at this time, Sanjiva Wijayasinghe brought to the IPM council’s notice about a 29.25 perch land with a three storied building at No: 891/ 1/1 Peradeniya Road, Kandy which was priced for Rs.200 million. Wijayasinghe promised to negotiate the price and had later informed the council that he was able to bring down to Rs.175 million. However later it came to light as to how Wijayasinghe had allegedly wanted the property owner to tell the IPM that his price was Rs.200 million and after negotiation brought down to Rs.175 million although the actual price was Rs.125 million,” sources added.
According to sources, after the property owner and broker had submitted affidavits to the IPM informing about Wijayasinghe’s attempt to obtain money from the land sale, on the stern stand of the IPM members an official disciplinary committee headed by Ms. Sumithra Fernando and including members G. Weeratunge, Peter Daabre and Sarath Lugoda was established .
“During the inquiry it had been found how the then Secretary who is now the Vice President had tried to mislead the IPM and forced to purchase the property for Rs.150 million claiming it to be a reasonable amount by bringing an apparently bogus valuation report from one Keppetipola from Gampola for the same price,” sources claimed.
“Although the disciplinary committee found about Shanaka Fernando’s involvement in the same scam instructed the IPM Council to appoint a new disciplinary committee to inquire into the allegations leveled against Fernando. However, the IPM President is yet to appoint a new disciplinary committee and start an inquiry,” sources alleged.
Further, sources said how Wijayasinghe and Fernando tried to mislead the IPM to purchase the said property for a higher price by presenting a bogus valuation amounting to Rs.150 million by which time on the directive of President Amarapala, yet another official valuation had been carried out by Incorporated valuer, Sarath G. Fernando.
“Although it is the President who has the powers to decide from whom the valuation should be done, without any request, Shanaka Fernando got a valuation from N.M. Keppettipola of Unambuwa, Gampola. The report dated February 25, 2015 was sent to Shanaka Fernando stating that the market value of this property was Rs.150 million while the PABC bank valuer Sarath G. Fernando’s valuation was Rs.81 million. Despite Sarath G, Fernando’s valuation Shanaka Fernando tried his best to purchase the property for Rs.150 million,” sources alleged.
When Sarath G. Fernando’s valuation was presented at one of the council meetings it is alleged that those who wanted to swindle IPM funds were dumbfounded.
“When the IPM said that it cannot afford to pay either Rs.175 million or Rs.150 million to purchase the Kandy property, Fernando went to the extent of getting a financial analysis done to prove the IPM could afford the Kandy property for Rs.150 million. Meanwhile an independent opinion was obtained from KPMG Charted Accountants, and its report had clearly advised the IPM not to proceed with the planned purchase,” sources added.
According to sources, the broker of the Kandy property Gemunu Pallewatte when questioned as to why a valuation report for Rs.150 million was given, had said that he was forced to find a valuer who can quote the price of this property for Rs.150 million who also can submit the report within a day or two in time for the council meeting.
The Sunday Leader is in possession of the relevant SMS purported to have been exchanged by Pallewatte and Wijayasinghe which confirms Pallewatte’s claim.
Meanwhile it is learnt that Rohitha Amarapala does not want to hold an inquiry against Shanaka Fernando as he intends to handover the Presidency to Fernando at the next Annual General Meeting.
However, President Amarapala when contacted to find out as to why he has so far failed to appoint an inquiring committee to inquire into the allegations leveled against Shanaka Fernando, Amarapala said that he does not want to reveal inside information to the media. “This is an internal affair and how ethical is it for you to expose IPM internal matters in your paper. Who gave all our inside information to you?” Amarapala queried.
Meanwhile, Chairperson of the inquiring committee that inquired into the allegations leveled against Wijayasinghe, Sumithra Fernando confirmed Wijayasinghe was found guilty and was removed from the membership. Ms Fernando further said that the inquiring committee which she headed recommended the IPM to appoint another committee to inquire into the allegations leveled against Shanaka Fernando but does not know what has happened there after.
“We carried out the job entrusted on us and we made a request to the IPM but it is up to them to take the necessary action,” Ms Fernando said.
When asked her views as a past President of IPM as to how ethical it is for the IPM President to pave way for Shanaka Fernando to contest the next Presidency when he is accused of cheating the institute, Ms. Fernando said that she is optimistic that Shanaka Fernando will not get the opportunity to contest the presidency at the coming AGM. “Those who do not have clean records cannot contest for the Presidency. I am sure Shanaka Fernando will not get that opportunity,” Ms Fernando added.
However, refuting allegations, Wijayasinghe said that he as a former council member had not obtained a single cent from IPM for the services he had rendered to the institution over the past several decades. “I was asked to find a property from Kandy and it was a CEO of a bank who introduced this property broker to me. The broker and the owner of this particular land in question told me the selling price was Rs.200 million which I conveyed to the IPM President,” Wijayasinghe said.
When asked as to why he could not get his name cleared at the inquiry, Wijayasinghe said that although he submitted all the relevant documents to the inquiring panel, he was surprised as to why they were not considered and made him accountable to the allegation.
“According to IPM by laws, an inquiring panel of five should hold an inquiry. But other than the Chairman of the panel and one member all others were not present most of the time when the inquiry was held. Being a past President, the IPM should have informed me about the inquiry beforehand rather than informing after the inquiry was initiated,” Wijayasinghe claimed. Meanwhile, Shanaka Fernando said there was no recommendation to appoint another inquiring panel to probe the allegations leveled against him.
“There was no such recommendation. I was not involved in any of these scams,” Fernando added.
He further said, “As the then Secretary, I had to get involved in IPM dealings. It was the President who wanted me to get yet another valuation report. I was not involved in any dealing. I carried out my duty by the institution.”