CoPE discloses many administrative weaknesses and irregularities of SL Ports Authority
Colombo (LNW): The occurrence of many administrative weaknesses and irregularities at the Sri Lanka Ports Authority has been revealed during the meeting held by the Parliamentary Committee on Public Enterprises (CoPE) on September 09, 2023, under the patronage of Chairman MP (Prof.) Ranjith Bandara.
The Auditor General’s report for the year 2021 and the current performance were examined and the Secretary of Ministry of Ports, Naval and Aviation Services K.D.S. Ruwanchandra, Chairman of Sri Lanka Ports Authority Keith D. Bernard and a group of officials were summoned before this Committee. Moreover, on June 22nd, 2022, when the Sri Lanka Port Authority was summoned before CoPE, the progress of implementing the recommendations was also examined.
Attention was drawn to the following points.
Recommendations to give a proposal to COPE within 3 months regarding increasing revenue, cost management and increasing efficiency of the Sri Lanka Ports Authority.
The CoPE Chair Prof. Ranjith Bandara recommended that 3 proposals pertaining to revenue enhancement, cost management and efficiency enhancement of Sri Lanka Ports Authority be submitted to CoPE. The Chair recommended that the Port Authority will be summoned before CoPE on the 8th of December. The 3 proposals should be submitted to the CoPE the Chair further said.
Non-payment of money to be credited to the Consolidated Fund from the year 2016 to the year 2021.
The financial results of the Sri Lanka Ports Authority in the past few years were taken into discussion. The Committee questioned the officials present regarding the non-payment of 4.975 million rupees of the profit earned by the Sri Lanka Ports Authority from the year 2016 to the year 2021 which was to be credited to the Consolidated Fund.
The officials who were present stated that they will take measures to pay this amount within two months.
Contract entered into for purchase of 12 oversise cranes and 40 automatic gantry cranes to maximise operational capacity at East Terminal
CoPE questioned the officials regarding not making amendments to the contract of the USD 282.56 million reached with the contractor to purchase 12 large cranes and 40 automatic gantry cranes to maximise the operational capacity of the eastern terminal. The MPs present pointed out that this was also discussed when the Sri Lanka Port Authority was summoned before CoPE on June 22nd, 2022. The officials present mentioned that contracts were reached on the said in the year 2021 and despite the issuance of Letter of Credit (LC) by the Bank of Ceylon, these payments could not be made due to the prevailing situation in the country. The CoPE Chair mentioned that due to the non-amendment of this contract, legal issues may arise in the future. Also, operational cost has been spent for this. As a result, CoPE recommended to give a report on this said within a month.
81% reduction in container handling capacity by Sri Lanka Ports Authority of Colombo Port from 2001 to 28% by 2022
CoPE pointed out that according to the reports of the Auditor General, it is observed that the container handling capacity of Sri Lanka Port Authority of the Colombo Port has decreased from 81% to 28% by 2022. Furthermore, the Members of the Committee present pointed out that the western terminal has been working to increase the income through the activities of private investors. As a result, CoPE pointed out that the ability to compete with the private sector should be also be created. The Committee was also questioned regarding the preparation of the comprehensive plan for the next 5 years. According to this, the officials pointed out that 50% of the comprehensive plans prepared for the next 5 years have been completed. The officials further agreed to present this plan to the Committee when the Authority is called before CoPE again.
Attention on the decrease in the arrival of naval vessels at the ports of Colombo, Galle and Trincomalee from the year 2018 to the year 2022
CoPE also drew attention to the decrease in the arrival of naval vessels at the ports of Colombo, Galle and Trincomalee from the year 2018 to the year 2022. CoPE also questioned the non-arrival of even a single ship at the port of Kankasanthura from the year 2020. The officials pointed out that though there was a decrease in the year 2022, it is getting better now. The officials mentioned that the ports other than the Colombo port were used to import raw materials such as cement and the reason for this was the decrease in the import of these raw materials during the past period. Thus, the Committee instructed to focus on further activation of the existing ports at the provincial level.
Planning to build a multi-purpose terminal at Galle port and suspending that project
There was also a discussion about the plan to build a multi-purpose terminal at the Galle port and the fact that the project had to be suspended due to the 3-year delay in obtaining approval from UNESCO. On March 28th, 2006, the Government of Sri Lanka and the Japan Bank for International Cooperation had signed a loan agreement in this regard and it was necessary to obtain the approval of the UNESCO organisation to carry out the construction in connection with the Galle Fort, which was designated as a world heritage. Given that this approval was not obtained for 3 years, it has been decided to suspend this project. But the Committee pointed out that the consultant fee of 418 million rupees spent for this purpose is observed as a net expense. The officials pointed out that due to the priority being given to the development of Hambantota port, the priority on Galle port was reduced. However, the officials mentioned that this money is not an idle expenditure as they hope to develop the Galle port as a tourist port in the future. The officials also mentioned that the Sri Lanka Port Authority has not been affiliated on the said matter.
Attention regarding the payment of overtime allowances to certain employees while there is an excess of 914 employees.
It was revealed that there are 914 excess employees in the Port Authority. Given the context, CoPE pointed out that overtime allowances have been given to the employees. CoPE also pointed out that it is observed that money has been given as overtime allowances in the year 2021 as well. Accordingly, CoPE also instructed the Department of Management Services to pay attention to the excess number of employees and take necessary action. The Committee instructed to resolve the issue related to the number of employees when being summoned back before the Committee.
Failure to install CCTV, covering all gates and bonded Warehouse of the Authority
An inquiry was made regarding the non-installation of CCTV cameras covering all the gates and bonded Warehouse of the Sri Lanka Port Authority. The officials present said that CCTV cameras will be gradually installed for the places necessary. The officials pointed out that 538 cameras have been installed so far and about 400 will be installed in the future. The officials present said that they will install these CCTV cameras within 6 months.
The Night Navigation system at Trincomalee port is not functioning at its maximum
CoPE also inquired about the Night Navigation system at Trincomalee port not functioning at its maximum.
An expenditure of 1.2 billion for food in the year 2022.
It was disclosed that 1.2 billion rupees have been spent on food for the year 2022. Accordingly, the Auditor General mentioned that 498 million rupees have been spent on snacks.
It was also decided to re summon the Sri Lanka Port Authority on December 8th, 2023 to review the progress of these recommendations.
State Ministers Jagath Pushpakumara, Janaka Wakkumbura, MPs Mahindananda Aluthgamage, Dayasiri Jayasekara, Rohitha Abegunawardhana, Eran Wickramaratne, S. M. Marikkar, Sanjeeva Edirimanna, Jagath Kumara Sumithraarachchi, Madhura Withanage and Prof. Charitha Herath were present at the meeting.