On November 10, 2016, then Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake proposed in his budget speech to introduce a National Payment Platform.
With a National Payment Platform, all government organisations will be able to allow businesses and citizens to make online payment on real-time for services offered.
The creator of the National Payment Platform (NPP) will have access to information of all users including institutions, businesses and citizens of the country.
According to the budget proposal, ICTA would implement the National Payment Platform.
On September 9, 2015, almost a year before the budget proposal, speaking at a national forum, CEO of ICTA Muhunthan Canagey revealed that a National Payment Platform was in the making.
He said, twelve companies had shown interest in the project, and three local private companies were selected for it.
In this case, then Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake informed Parliament about NPP after three companies had been selected to undertake the project.
Cabinet approval was given for the NPP on July12, 2016.
A case was filed with the Supreme Court seeking an order to quash the decision to implement and launch the NPP through the budget proposal with private firms.
The case claimed it was against the law of the country and would be taken up again on July 20.
Private company gets involved
A document prepared by Total Pay Private Limited notes that ICTA had given it rights for the advisorial role in the NPP. To register with the NPP, a user must submit all details in to the system.
Therefore, a user will have to disclose all details from the NIC to bank accounts to the system that is operated by the private company.
This attempt is being carried out while a successful system linking the Central Bank, state and private banks, by the name of ‘LankaClear’ is in place.
A private company is brought into the picture at a time when the ground work is already laid to move LankaClear system under the complete supervision of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka.
The Central Bank is vested with the responsibility of regulating the transactions that involve public funds.
A National Payment Platform (NPP) is also a system where online transactions can be carried out using the electronic payment methods such as credit cards.
The platform will create a way to carry out transactions with institutions like the Inland Revenue Department, Customs Department, Excise Department and other state institutions, banks as well as financial institutions.
The Central Bank should be the regulatory authority of a system like this, where major financial transactions will be carried out.
“The Central Bank has a responsibility in terms of the act, to regulate them. Any payment system”, says Governor of the CBSL Dr. Indrajit Coomaraswamy.
The law pertaining to payment systems is very clearly mentioned in the Payment and Settlement Systems Act no. 28 of 2005.
It says that the Central Bank shall be the authority responsible for the preparation of a plan for a national payment system.
The company short listing to develop this system however, has been done by the ICTA.
The prospectus of one of the companies short listed, Total Pay says they have been awarded the “right to operate as a Digital Instruction Provider (DIP) to the National Payment Platform by the ICTA.
According to the prospectus, Total Pay as a DIP can carry out user executed transactions by transmitting instructions to the bank via the National Payment Platform.
Total Pay Private Limited, registered on 01 March 2016, has five shareholders and directors, with Eswaran Subramaniam holding a majority of shares.
The others are Durka Chellaram, Steve Epsrams, Ishan Niroshan Lewis Perera and Radhakrishnan Senduran.