Home » SL Finance Ministry alleged of using SLPA funds for essential imports

SL Finance Ministry alleged of using SLPA funds for essential imports

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Sri Lanka’s Finance Ministry has been alleged of using funds of US$ 290 million in Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) funds earmarked for the development of the East Container Terminal (ECT)to plug gaps in the dwindling forex reserves, trade union leaders said.

They noted that thS work of the State-owned terminal expansion development project came to stand making it impossible to proceed with the project due to lack of funds. at present as result of this action taken by the finance ministry on the directions of the former minister Basil Rajapksa, .

The approved Indo-Japanese project was halted following a controversial about-turn by the Gotabaya Rajapaksa Government in 2021 and assigned to the SLPA.

According to Sri Lanka Nidahas Sevaka Sangamaya (SLNSS) President Prasanna Kalutharage that the funds which had been earmarked for the stage-by-stage development of the ECT under the SLPA had been absorbed by the Treasury following a decision by the then Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa in an attempt to source dollars for critical imports.

“The then Minister of Ports and several officials tried to bypass the stage-by-stage building plan that was in place and placed orders for the full range of equipment, including 12 gantry cranes, 40 Rubber-Tyred Gantry (RTG) cranes, and 40 stackers from a Chinese firm in one go.

The funds were then kept as a bank bond for the import of the equipment. However, when the forex shortage came about, former Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa ordered the funds to be used to ftackle the dollar shortage. This is how this country lost the opportunity to have the ECT built, at least in stages,” Kalutharage alleged .

However, when contacted, the Ports, Shipping, and Aviation Ministry denied any misappropriation or corruption involved with the funds deposited in SLPA accounts at State banks.

Responding to the concerns raised about what had become of the funds belonging to the SLPA, Ministry Secretary K.D.S. Ruwanchandra clarified that the SLPA’s money was in the accounts of the respective banks, but it was not physically in the accounts due to the prevailing dollar shortage in the country.

Like all other State institutions, the SLPA too is facing a similar situation, he said adding that .

Former SLPA Chairman Gen. (Retd) Daya Ratnayake noted that that there was some money in the SLPA bank accounts, which he did not recall the details of, and that the SLPA had begun ordering equipment for the ECT on part-by-part payment basis.

Ratnayake claimed that at the time of his departure from the SLPA, the money had been in the banks.

He however said that due to the present economic situation in the country, even though the institutions had money in the accounts, that money could not be withdrawn as the banks did not have dollars.

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