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Food security drive malpractices of previous regime exposed

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The previous Gotabaya Rajapaksa regime’s initiative of maintaining rice security and organic fertilizer drive has been tainted with malpractices, corruption and waste of taxpayers’ money, official sources revealed.

Amid a hard-hitting economic crisis and worsening COVID-19 situation, Sri Lanka has declared a food emergency in September 2021 to deter hoarding and stabilize prices of essential items.

The then President Gotabaya Rajapaksa issued this order and appointed a major general to “oversee food distribution” in the island nation, which was under its third coronavirus lockdown in 2021.

He revoked this emergency declaration in April 2022 making an utter mess in the public administration procedures as well as administrative and financial regulations further ordering top officials to adhere to his word without any official circulars.

“Authorized officers have been given powers to provide essential food items at a concessionary rate to the public by purchasing stocks of essential food items including paddy, rice, and sugar,” read a statement issued by the presidential office at that time.

Under this set up financial provisions amounting to Rs.200 million had been provided to maintain 100000 mt rice security (buffer stock) at the stores network of the food commissioners department in early 2022.

But no such buffer stocks had been maintained till October 2022 and the sum of Rs 200 million was transferred to State Trading Corporation, auditor general’s department observed, adding that this was a serious matter in relation to food security in the country.

Now the million rupee question was as to what happened to this money transferred to STC, a senior treasury official said.

Meanwhile several irregularities have been exposed in the implementation of organic farming drive in the recent auditor general’s report opening a can of worms.

It has been observed that although the Agriculture Research and Production Assistants of the Agrarian Service Centers had been trained online on the production and use of organic fertilizer, and paying incentives to the farmers, the Department of Agrarian Development had paid a sum of Rs. 21.66 million to 06 media institutions to air awareness programs on the production and use of organic fertilizer, and paying incentives to the farmers.

Further the Ministry of Lands had produced 6,156.23 metric tons of fertilizer at a cost of Rs.302 million, and according to section 2 (1) (2) of the Regulation of Fertilizer Act No. 68 of 1988, a license should be obtained from the National Fertilizer Secretariat for the production of fertilizers, but it has not been obtained , the report revealed.

Although 777,720 kg of fertilizer produced under this project was sold to Colombo Commercial Fertilizer Company at Rs.15 per kg in the year 2021/2022 under review, the income of Rs.11.67 million due for that had not reported in the financial statements as deficit income.

More worms are expected to come out but those who were responsible for such suspicious financial transactions including then heads of the government and top officials are still allowed to enjoy life scot-free.

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