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Feb 27, 2017

Southern highway project still corrupt under ‘good governance’ Featured

An anti-corruption group has sent information to the presidential secretariat that point to the tender procedure relating to the construction of the stretch of the southern highway from Matara to Mattala being extremely corrupt.

It has copied the evidence to us as well.

The construction of the highway began during the previous government, and those who had pioneered the regime change on January 08 severely criticized the cost of the project.

The previous regime estimated the cost of construction for the 96 km stretch at Rs. 242 billion plus Rs. 12 b as consultancy and planning expenses.

The estimated costs for its four phases were – Rs. 103.28 b for the 30 km stretch from Matara to Beliatta, Rs. 55.5 b for the 26 km stretch from Beliatta to Wetiya, Rs. 31.57 b for the 15 kms from Wetiya to Andarawewa and Rs. 52.16 b for the 25 kms from Andarawewa to Hambantota.

The Chinese contractors secured loans through the Chinese banks named by them for the Sri Lankan government.

The anti-corruption group charges that local and foreign racketeers shared the money that was the difference between the actual cost and the estimated cost.

It urges the authorities to once again go through all the contracts relating to this project.

Technical committee report ignored

The first highways minister of the present government Kabir Hashim appointed a technical committee headed by renowned engineering consultant M.B.S. Fernando to undertake a review of the project.

The committee report handed over to the minister on 28 April 2015 says the project could have been completed at a cost which is Rs. 123 b less.

However, by August, the tenders were awarded at the previous cost estimates, and the specialist report completely disregarded.
After the general election in that month, a newly-appointed minister took up the job.

Then, the estimates were gone through once again and the same contractors were to be given the job on new estimates.

Surprisingly, this time the decision is to raise the costs – from Rs. 103.28 b to Rs. 122.5 b for the Matara-Beliatta stretch, from Rs. 55.2 to Rs. 66.83 b for the Beliatta-Wetiya stretch and from Rs. 31.57 b to Rs. 39.97 b for the Wetiya-Andarawewa stretch, while the estimate for the remaining stretch is still under review.

The anti-corruption group notes that the present is more corrupt than the past.

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