The Sunday Leader

Ministries Pouring Millions Down The Rental Drain

  • Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka is among those racking up multi-million rupee rental bills while office space in government-owned Suhurupaya remains empty

by Nirmala Kannangara

Astonishing revelations have confirmed how the national government formed to wipe out unnecessary expenses in government institutions is now spending millions of public money to rent out office buildings for its ministers.

It is surprising to note that the cabinet of ministers has granted approvals to ministers to rent-out office space from private parties when there are 16 vacant floors which can be used for ministries and other government departments at the newly built Suhurupaya in Battaramulla which is a government building.

In February this year, the cabinet gave its approval to a proposal presented by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to allocate Agriculture Minister Duminda Dissanayake a building in Rajagiriya to house the Agriculture Ministry at a rate of a staggering Rs. 21 million per month and two months later in April, the same cabinet had given its approval to Minister of Regional Development, Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka to rent out a building for a sum of over Rs. 10 million per month including VAT.

Despite the government’s continuous claim that the value added tax (VAT) had to be increased to beef up the cash-strapped national coffers due to heavy loan installments and interest the country has had to pay, it is indeed baffling to see the government giving free rein to its ministers to rent out office spaces that cost the public dearly.Minister Fonseka had submitted a cabinet memorandum (No: 16/ 0617/ 754/ 001/ TBR) on April 1, 2016 to which cabinet approval had been granted on April 6, 2016 to rent out 49,556 square feet at Sino Tower building at No: 1090 Sri Jayawardenapura Mawatha, Rajagiriya owned by Sino-Lanka Properties (Private) Limited at a rate of Rs.163.20 per sq. ft. and another Rs. 30.60 per sq.ft as service charge on a five year lease agreement.

Accordingly, the monthly rental for the proposed 49,556 sq ft Regional Development Ministry office comes to an astounding Rs. 9,603,952.80 (Rs. 9.603 million) plus VAT which will be more than Rs.10 million per month.

In addition, cabinet had also granted approval to pay Sino-Lanka Properties owned by B. W. Kundanmal a twenty four month lease rental as an advance which comes to Rs.194,100,940.80 (Rs. 194 million) plus VAT which will be almost Rs. 200 million. This will be deducted from the monthly rental at the end of the lease agreement. Cabinet had also granted approval to pay six months rental as a refundable security deposit of Rs.48,525, 235.20 (Rs.48.525 million) plus VAT and also to get all these payable money remitted to the Regional Development Ministry from the national treasury.

Following this cabinet approval, questions have been raised as to whether the cabinet got a government valuer to value the sq ft rental or whether it was agreed to pay what the minister quoted.

The Prime Minister’s proposal for the Agriculture Ministry’s building was to be one in Rajagiriya and the quoted value was Rs.165.50 per sq. ft. and another Rs. 60.50 per sq. ft. as service charges, the government valuation was Rs.150 per sq. ft. However still, the Prime Minister’s proposal received cabinet approval to pay Rs. 227 per sq. ft. including service charges to the selected building at Rajagiriya. It is still unknown whether cabinet got a government valuation for Sino Tower building or granted approval for the price Minister Fonseka has quoted.

Although the Technical Evaluation Committee and the Government Procurement Board appointed by the cabinet had not recommended to pay Rs. 245, 846.52 plus VAT for 85% out of 9452 sq. ft. common area at a rate of Rs. 30.60 per sq. ft. and 24 month service advance of Rs. 42, 294,242.88 (Rs.42.294 million), Minister Fonseka in a cabinet memorandum dated April 19, 2016 had once again made a request to the cabinet to grant approval to the said bid. In addition Minister Fonseka had further made a request for permission to amend the rental and service charges by increasing 15% once every two years.

In a letter dated April 18, 2016 by Sino-Lanka Properties Chairman B. W. Kundanmal to the Secretary, Ministry of Regional Development he had reiterated the request for service charges for the common area and the 24 month service charge advance.

The letter states: ‘We have undertaken the responsibility to maintain the several common areas and to provide a series of services covered by the service charges in our letter dated March 21, 2106. In light of the fact that the government of Sri Lanka will be leasing 85% of the demised premises, payment of service charge for 85% of the common area in addition to exclusively rented areas is justifiable. Our quotation includes an advance payment of 24 months of service charges exclusive of VAT and NBT based on the service charges for the first two years and this advance is to be set off against the service charges payable for the last two years of the lease.’

Meanwhile, highly reliable senior government audit officer from the Auditor General’s Department on condition of anonymity said that although the cabinet of ministers assumes that the decisions taken at cabinet meetings cannot be audited, the Auditor General has been vested with powers to audit the decisions taken by the cabinet of ministers.

The sources said that it is questionable as to why the cabinet did not ask these ministers to follow the government procurement guidelines and call for quotations to rent out buildings for a lesser amount.

“These politicians are sent to the legislature not to play out public money but to make full use of the funds lying in the treasury and give relief to the people. The building leased out for the Agriculture Ministry in Rajagiriya is a super luxury building but there are not enough parking spaces and no facility for the disabled. The Agriculture Ministry is meant for the farmers in the country and if there are no proper access facilities for the disabled, then what is the use of getting a building with no facilities for the farmers?” sources queried.

The sources meanwhile said that the government audit officers have already sent an audit query in regard to the high rental when the government valuation was much less.“When this was taken up at COPE on April seven, MP Bimal Ratnayake said that this was a scam and wanted the ministry secretary to review this immediately. However the agreement was signed the following day without considering the COPE recommendation. The ministry had already paid a two year advance of Rs. 504 million at a rate of Rs. 21 million per month for this building. They have also paid Rs. 21 million each for the months of April and May although the ministry is yet to move to the building. We are in receipt of the letters the owner of the building, D. P. Jayasinghe sent to the ministry quoting their prices which had been submitted to the cabinet without changing even one letter. This shows the government’s duplicity. The government claims that the former regime left an empty treasury for them and the economy is in the doldrums. Having said that and increasing the VAT andputting more burden on the people, the government is allowing the ministers to play out public money which is a daylight robbery,” sources claimed.

According to the sources, of the 18 floors only two floors of the newly built Suhurupaya at Sri Subuthi Road, Battaramulla have been occupied by the Ministry of Megapolis and Western Development. Sources queried as to why the good governance administration cannot instruct its ministers to move to this building instead of making private parties richer.

“If the Agriculture Ministry and Regional Development Ministry can be housed at Suhurupaya which is a few kilometres away from where these two ministries are to be located, several millions of rupees of public money could have been saved,” sources added.

Although a message was left with Regional Development Minister Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka’s Media Secretary Mahinda Kumara seeking a comment from the minister, Minister Fonseka had not responded to the call at the time of going to press. Although a text message was sent to former Aviation Minister Priyankara Jayaratne for a comment, he did not respond to the message.

 

22 Comments for “Ministries Pouring Millions Down The Rental Drain”

  1. sarath

    wetah niyarath goyam ka nam kata pawasada ae amaruwa.

  2. This man is no hero he went into politics to make fortunes for his family not the country.

  3. Rufus R.

    Are these idiots have any feelings for the country? Where is the sacrifice they promised before coming to power? Rather send this money to the cancer hospital to purchase a scanner.

  4. Patrick Rodrigo

    The four horseman of apocalypse are above this island governed by pure greed and almost nothing else. God bless the poor and needy.

  5. kudson

    give me a politician who is not crooked

  6. raza

    This is an area where a lot of Middlemen and Kick Backs take Place. These are going for years specially by Government owned bodies , Corporations, Banks etc .These are the rewards Politicians and their henchmen are looking for.

  7. The public to know this deals better can someone list out the Ministries and Govt Institutions inclusive of banks who occupy such area of floors privately at rent with the value please

  8. gamarala

    This government is worse than the last one in its profligacy at the expense of the citizens.
    Do not these ministers have a conscience to spend like this, when many live below the poverty line.
    This, in addition to all loosing state enterprises which are being propped up, instead of being pruned.

  9. Democracy in Asian countries is a lucrative business. For one who can afford to spend a small amount of money to be elected as a member of parliament, one can, within the tenure of his five year term, could come out as a millionaire. Unfortunately, parliamentary system , under the cloak of democracy has totally become a farce. While the political system renders the so called elected representatives of the people certain powers to serve the respective constituent, thereby the state, it certainly breeds corruption to misappropriate tax payers money to enrich themselves and their kith and kin. In the interim, let us not forget a handful of leaders who espoused integrity, honesty and services to the people and to the nation. But they are exceptional and joined the dead. They led an exemplary and spartan life, as liberated souls, respecting their position and abiding by the democratic values. But that is history. Democracy in Sri Lanka is certainly has degenerated into a cacophony, that questions the vary governing process and the values of the system. At the very moment of the parliamentarians begin to assume that they are the kings and therefore they only own the resources of the country and the tax payers money , they simply become the bandits and day light robbers. While they enrich themselves, the common man is burdened with the rising cost, tax that increases over night and indebted to pay the dept of the country for which he is not responsible, but enforced by a corrupt system. With all the perks and a salary beyond the reach of an ordinary clerk who begins at a tender age and ends up in sixty’s, as paupers, the elected representatives on whom the people entrust their trust, arrive as kings at the end of their tenure of 5 years, is pure evil and provocation. Democracy has been used as a tool to loot and not as an appropriate system for governance. It entails radical transformation to enshrine the values of, ” for the people, of the people and by the people”. Unless there is transformation, it will remain a farce and the gap between the haves and the have- not will widen to a boiling point with devastating consequences. Corruption at all levels must end if prosperity is to reach all.

  10. This is a Swindle of Public Funds Which should be Investigated Immedeatly,Come onn RW and MS This is Like HORA GE AMMA GEN PENA Hanawa wage Put all Ministries into “SUHURUPURAYA” You will be no better than the Previous Regime

  11. ata suppuwa

    Fonny has been lavish when he was in army too. Dont expect any good from him, he is in a state of anger plus Jealousy with MR, Ranil, MY 3, So he will do anything to destroy any good happening. We must stop this man very soon.

  12. ARE THEY WORK FOR PEOPLE ????

  13. Decent Lankan

    OMG~ is robbing the state a inherited right?
    It has become a given right in our Sri Lankan blood to lie,deceit,corruption,power, the more you do these,it seems like the more popular you become…..look at the last general election results, the looters got more preference vote
    So the real fools our us the people

  14. srinath

    What a Crime? If it is true, I wonder where the GOD is? How can you do this to the poor masses monies? Anura Kumara’s stated that Ranil Wicks had asked for 6000 lakhs rupees to buy two cars? Is this their own family money or what?

    Please, requesting the ‘Yahapalakaya’s to be considerate and think of the people who voted you in. Some even have lost and with no mandate from the people trying to swindle money from the state coffers.

    May God bless our country Mother Lanka.

  15. Ranjan

    No wonder this government is equally corrupt. Disanayake has to mature a lot to be a capable and competent minister. I will not hire him even to be the gardner. I am surprised that Fonseka also have become another dufus in the cabinet.

  16. Daya Weerasinghe

    same crap different names…!

  17. len

    [Astonishing revelations]

    Not so! this is what is called business as usual. What is really Astonishing is why any one in Sri Lanka thinks this is any thing but normal practice in Sri Lanka. But must give kudos to Sunday Leader for keep reminding the masses nothing has changed.

  18. Now we all see who this monkey is. He is a disgrace to the chair of Army Commander who is robbing the countries money for his luxury living and pet the women. Please act like a man and do not be a disgrace to all the southerners. Please also do not lick the asses of PM for power.

  19. daggy

    That joke or humour the Parrot that spoke said…… same old customers with new prostitutes.

    This is yahapalanaya.

  20. sarath

    We could have saved 10 Million Rs a month on building rent and 40 Million on import of vehicle if not for appointing SF as a Minister in addition to 93 ministers.

  21. sarath

    We could have saved 10 Million Rs a month on building rent and 40 Million on import of vehicle if not for appointing SF as a Minister in addition to 93 ministers.

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