The Sunday Leader

SLFEB Funds Swindled By Ex-Minister

by Nirmala Kannangara

  • Thalatha says audit report in hands of FCID
  • Dilan Perera yet to be questioned on allegations
  • Rs. 247.612 million of funds for migrant workers misused

Government audit query that gives details into how SLFEB funds have been swindled and the statement given by Ranjith Kariyawasam of Ravana Foods that he did not supply food for any event and Dilan Perera

The credibility of the Financial Crime Investigation Division (FCID) is fast diminishing due to their alleged failure to conduct investigations against those who are aligned with the government.

The police division, which was established to investigate those who are involved in financial crimes, have allowed those who have extended support to the government to roam free whilst offenders who are against the government are questioned.

Failure to question former Minister of Foreign Employment Promotion and Welfare, Bodhiya Baduge Dilan Priyanjan Anslam Perera, who is alleged to have been involved in misappropriation of Sri Lanka Foreign Employment Bureau (SLFEB) funds for his personal welfare than the welfare of migrant workers whilst in office during the previous regime, is one such fine example of the FCID’s ‘impartiality’.

According to a government audit report, which this paper is in possession, Perera had allegedly swindled SLFEB’s funds systematically with the unstinted support of the then top management of SLFEB. Although complaints had been lodged with the FCID soon after the previous regime was toppled none other than the then Ministry Secretary, those accused have yet to be questioned.

Minister of Foreign Employment, Promotion and Welfare, Thalatha Athukorale, when asked what the latest status of the complaint was, said that the government audit report had been given to the FCID for investigations but she is unaware of its present situation.

“We did not lodge complaints against one individual but handed over the audit report to the FCID. Based on that they will take action against those who were involved in swindling bureau funds,” the Minister said.

 

Millions swindled 

When asked whether her officials have been summoned by the FCID to give statements in regard to the complaint, Minister Athukorale said she is unaware of it. In an earlier occasion when this reporter questioned the former minister about his involvement in misappropriation of public funds for his welfare, Perera said that it was a mud- slinging campaign and his name was cleared by the Parliament Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE). However when asked, the then Chairman of COPE former Minister DEW Gunasekera said that the COPE had never cleared his name.

Be that as it may, according to the internal and government audits, Rs.247.612 million had been allegedly swindled by Perera with the help of few others at the bureau from the money meant for migrant workers welfare.

“Now the FCID has put former Minister Wimal Weerawansa behind bars for misappropriation of public funds to the tune of over Rs. 90 million which should be hailed. But we are worried as to why the law enforcement authority has so far failed to take action against Dilan Perera who had swindled more than three times of what Weerawansa misappropriated. Does that mean for the FCID, Rs. 90 million is larger than Rs. 247.612 million? In regard to Weerawansa’s case he had allowed the state money to be spent on his family and friends joy rides. But in regard to Dilan Perera’s case, this money had not been spent but had ‘evaporated’. Where had this money gone? It is up to the FCID to find out. Even former Chairman SLFEB, Board of Directors and the permanent employees who helped Perera to swindle the money, willingly or unwillingly, should be brought before the law under the Public Property Act. Action could be taken against those who approved these payments in the guise of ‘official work’, under Section 103 and 156 of Financial Regulation Act for violating its Sections 136, 137 and 138 deliberately,” SLFEB sources said on condition of anonymity.

Amal Senadhilankara was the Chairman of the Bureau at the time while Director (Administration) was Susil Ranasinghe, General Manager was H. Batagoda, the Deputy General Manager was Wasantha Munasinghe, Additional General Manager (International Affairs) K. D. Fernando, Additional General Manager Krisholi Perera, Manager Procurement M. A. Prasad Priyadharshana, Deputy Finance Manager H. M. D. P. Herath, M. G. S. Tennakoon and Eksith Hapangama was in the Sales Department.

“When cronies are appointed, the subject minister is able to get any work done through them. In this instance, too, Perera knew thathe could get the ‘work’ done through these two. In order to secure their jobs, Senadhilankara gave his blessings to Ranasinghe to get the necessary work done from the senior officials at the bureau. Ranasinghe threatened those who did not want to get involved in these alleged frauds. Although we knew that some of the top management and officials in the permanent staff were involved in the racket, we could not confirm it until we saw the government audit query sent to the Ministry Secretary soon after the January eight election victory,” sources said.

 

Audit report reveals fraud

The audit report states as to how the bureau had paid Rs. 2.854 million to Ravana Ella Food and Caterers for supplying food for 5,200 participants at the Gampaha and Colombo foreign employment awareness walks held on April 27, 2014 and April 29, 2014. These payments have been paid in two installments by two vouchers dated April 29, 2014 (voucher No: 938442) and voucher No: 938539 dated April 30, 2014 each of them to the value of Rs. 1.427 million.

The report further states how the Sales Promotion Executive in his letter (Ref: Mkt/ 2/ 12-2) dated April 11, 2014 had obtained permission from Chairman Amal Senadhilankara to hold these two walks in Gampaha and Colombo respectively on April 29 and 30, 2014 although such walks had not been conducted.

According to the Sales Promotion Executive’s letter, the General Manager had suggested and received approval from Chairman Senadhilankara to purchase 2,600 T-shirts and 2,600 caps, packets of lunch and breakfast for the 2,600 participants, 2,000 bottles of 500ml drinking water, fifteen banners to the size of 16’x 4’ and 1,500 balloons for the 2,600 participants from each district.

Payment voucher for the Colombo walk (no: 938539) to the value of Rs. 1.427 million had been approved by the then General Manger H. Batagoda and Deputy General Manager Vasantha Munasinghe recommended by Procurement Manager Priyadharshana  and had been certified by Assistant Finance Manager Herath. Payment for the Gampaha district voucher No: 938442 to the value of Rs. 1.427 million had been approved by Senadhilankara and Batagoda. Payment had been recommended by M. A. P. Priyadharshana and M. G. S. Tennakoon.

Although Eksith Hapangama of the Marketing Department had made the request to hold these two walks, the government auditors have found out that no one in the marketing division was aware of such walks. “If such walks were organised, the subject officer of the division had to get the permission but when the audit officers checked the documents, there wasn’t a single letter in the files in regard to these walks. The letter forwarded to the Chairman for his approval too was not in the file for the government auditors to check,” sources added.

Although Gampaha walk was said to be have held on April 27, which was a Sunday, Hapangama the organiser was in the Central Province on the 27 and 28 to attend a meeting organised by the then Chief Minister Central Province. The official document confirms that he had obtained accommodation costs and over time for the said meeting.  The day the Colombo walk was ‘held’ on April 29, Hapangama had reported for duty at 8.23 am and had left office at 4.40pm and there was no indication that he had left office during the day time to take part in the walk.

 

Supplier denies

“Hapangama had placed his signature on the payment vouchers stating that he had accepted the food for the 5,200 participants. If he did not attend these walks how could he accept the food? It was also reported how Rs. 160,000 had been paid to Ravana Ella Food and Catering Services for supplying 4,000 bottles of water (500ml) at a rate of Rs. 40 each when 500ml bottle of water could have been purchased for Rs. 27 from the bureau welfare shop. Bypassing the procurement guidelines without calling for tender, 400 Elephant House mega soft drink bottles to the value of Rs. 76,000 and 400 packets of 500gm cream cracker biscuits to the value of Rs. 70,000 had been purchased,” sources added. However Chairman Rawana Ella Food and Catering Services Ranjith Kariyawasam when contacted said that he did not supply packet of foods nor bottles of water and soft drinks to SLFEB on the said two days.

Meanwhile, the SLFEB had further paid Rs. 3.627 million to Tata Tailoring Company for supplying 5,200 T-shirts and a similar number of caps. On April 24, 2014 an advance had been paid to this company amounting to Rs. 1.45 million  by voucher No: 355/B/14 and the balance Rs. 2.176 million by voucher No: 93852 on May two, 2014. “Giving the order to Tata Tailoring is dubious. Although the SLFEB obtained three quotations on April 24, 2014, the bureau had obtained the recommendations from the Technical Evaluation Committee and had offered the contract to Tata Tailoring by the Department Procurement Board the same day. Interestingly the bureau had paid 40% of the contract amount as an advance soon after the tender was awarded although it is learnt that they had not obtained the board approval,” sources added.

There are documents to show Hapangama had accepted this order on behalf of the bureau, but there were no records to confirm that these T-shirts and caps have been supplied to the bureau although Batagoda and Senadhilankara had given their approval for the payment.

It also reveals how Rs. 925,000 had been paid to Selacine through voucher no:938669 dated May 19, 2014 for the purchase of 3,000 gas filled balloons and thirty banners for the Gampaha and Colombo walks.

“One gas filled balloon had cost Rs. 191.92 and for one banner Rs. 11,652. Senadhilankara had approved the purchase from Selacine without calling for tenders. When the government auditors inquired from Selacine whether they provided these gas filled balloons and banners, it was revealed how Hapangama had wanted Selacine to give the contract to Anil Graphic Designs at Kithulhena, Mattegoda. The SLFEB had drawn a cheque to the value of Rs. 9.25 lakhs in favour of Selacine and keeping the commission, they have paid Anil Graphics. However according to Selacine, they have not monitored whether these goods were delivered to the SLFEB. Although the bureau had stated that these balloons and banners were for the walks, Anil Graphics in their bills had stated it was for May Day decorations. The government audit query meanwhile has stated how the SLFEB had paid Rs.1.713 million to Selacine once again by voucher no. 938985 dated June two, 2014 for providing publicity to the foreign employment awareness walk held in Hambantota on May 9, 2014,” sources claimed.

According to the audit report, Hapangama had received Senadhilankara’s approval to hold a similar walk in Hambantota but none of the marketing department employees had known about such a walk and no letters related to the walk could be traced in any of the marketing department files.  However  Hapangama had been given Chairman’s approval to obtain an exhibition vehicle, 25 banners, 2,500 posters and 2,500 handbills for this walk. Without calling for quotations, these services had been obtained from Selacine at a payment of Rs. 1.326 million for the promotion vehicle, Rs. 2.91 lakhs for digital banners, Rs. 61,690 for posters and Rs. 34,272 for handbills amounting to Rs. 1.713 million.

The audit report further states how Director Operations SLFEB Susil Ranasinghe had made a request to Chairman Rawana Food and Caterers, Ranjith Kariyawasam to give Rs.2 million to ‘Siriliya Foundation’ headed by former First Lady, Shiranthi Rajapaksa promising to pay back the money.

Hence Kariyawasam had given a cash cheque from his current account (Bank of Ceylon A/C No: 0074462903 cheque no: 340155) on March 27, 2013 and had been handed over to Susil Ranasinghe. However, it was later found that this money had been remitted to ‘Dilan Perera Foundation’ on April one, 2013 at the Peoples Bank A/C 010100120012392. Ranjith Kariyawasam later confirmed this to this newspaper.

Meanwhile the audit report further states as to how another Rs. 3.5 million had been obtained from the welfare fund for an almsgiving in Haliella – Perera’s constituency. This money had been ‘spent’ for pirikara for 1,115 Buddhist monks, kiri dana to 1,500 selected mothers from migrant worker (Rataviru) families and gift packs for expectant mothers in these families. This programme was said to have held on May 11, 2013.

“A letter dated May 8, 2013 from the Ministry Press Officer had been sent to the then Acting Chairman and General Manager requesting to release Rs. 3.5 million for religious ceremonies.

The request had been granted and an advance of Rs. 2 million had been paid by voucher (No: 122/W/13) on May 9, 2013. If there was such a programme this request should come through a Deputy General Manager or an Additional General Manager but not from the Ministry Press Office,” sources alleged.

However, the General Manager and the acting Chairman had released the funds without the approval of the Board of Directors. It is also learnt as to how Deputy General Manager (Finance) M. A. D.  Chandrawansha had allegedly instructed the Finance Division to make the payment forthwith promising to get the Board Approval on a later date which never happened.

“The Rs. 2 million advance payment had been sent to the Officer-in-Charge S Suresh Kumar of the SLBFE Provincial Office in Badulla through a bank draft on May 9, 2013. It has also come to light as to how the acting Chairman had instructed Suresh Kumar to cash this money and hand it over to Additional General Manager Krisholi Perera,” sources said.

However it was later revealed that such a religious ceremony organised either by the families of migrant workers or by the SLBFE had not taken place, but the subject minister had taken part in another religious ceremony on May 11, 2013 at the same venue organised by some other party.

“In another letter, dated May 9, 2013, Aruni Ranasinghe had requested the Chairman and General Manager to release another Rs. 1.5 million to purchase pirikara for the mothers from the migrant worker families who took part in the kiri dana.

The General Manager and the then Acting Chairman had given immediate approval to release the money on the same day. They had not obtained Board approval for this payment.

The Deputy General Manager (Finance) M. A. D. Chandravansha had given special instructions to the accounts division to make the payment without the Board approval and the money was sent to Suresh Kumara by a bank draft.

Deputy General Manager K. K. D. A. G. Karunathilaka had asked Suresh Kumara to cash the bank draft and return the Rs. 1.5 million to Susil Ranasinghe,” sources alleged.

According to the government audit report, bills have been obtained from MPK Traders in Badulla on May 11, 2013  by the SLBFE that 1,000 packets of consumer goods were purchased from MPK Traders in Badulla to the value of Rs. 1.5 million to be given as pirikara at the kiri dana. These were fake bills.

“When the auditors questioned the owner of that MPK Traders, he had denied selling goods worth Rs. 1.5 million and had stated that the bills produced by the SLBFE were all fraudulent,” sources claimed.

It has also been revealed that SLBFE officials, Minister’s Coordinating Secretary Sumith and Haliella Pradeshiya Sabha Chairman Nimal Senanayake conspired to have Haliella Provincial MOH Dr MGCS Cooray sign a letter to the SLBFE confirming that 1,500 mothers-to-be in migrant worker families in the Badulla District were given special gift packs on May 11, 2013.

“The doctor had told the government auditors that he knew nothing about this programme and doesn’t know how many expectant mothers participated but had to give such a letter on the directives of the Haliella Pradeshiya Sabha Chairman.

It was later revealed that such an almsgiving had not taken place and the purchasing bills submitted by the SLBFE to show that Rs. 3.5 million was spent to buy pirikara was a fraud.

4 Comments for “SLFEB Funds Swindled By Ex-Minister”

  1. Samson

    And these bloody bastards are the very same people who hassle the migrant workers at the airport, asking them to pay blood money to fund their thievery, if they are to be allowed to leave the country? Pathetic. The entire bureau should be shut down and the staff there thrown in to jail, with the keys thrown away. Better still ship the whole bloody lot to Saudi Arabia, and get their hands chopped off the the daylight robbery they have carried out.

  2. kanal

    Hats off to Leader for tirelessly taking great effort to expose these types of corruption in the public sector. It’s unfortunate that the “Yahapalana” government is reluctant to bring the culprits to book immediately. All the people and all the media should rally round the government to compel them to take concrete steps to eradicate corruption from our motherland. It is then that the honest leaders in the government will be assured of prolonged public support. It is then that the remaining corrupted politicians and officials would withdraw out of shame or would try to correct themselves.

  3. Horrified

    But this big rogue is always seen on the TV and supposed to be the SLFP
    Spokesman.

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