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Rs. 78 mn. loss over Met. Dept.’s failed radar project

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The Committee on Public Accounts (COPA) recently disclosed that the Government has incurred a loss of Rs 78 million due to a failed project for the construction of a radar system provided by the World Meteorological Organization in Gongala area.

These facts came to light when the Department of Meteorology came before the Committee on Public Accounts held on 10.08.2023 under the Chairmanship of the State Minister – Lasantha Alagiyawanna to examine the auditor general’s report and current performance for the years 2019, 2020 and 2021.

In this project implemented in 2008, it was revealed that approximately 402 million rupees have been spent for this radar system and 323 million rupees have been given by the World Meteorological Organization. It was also disclosed that before bringing this project to Sri Lanka, an officer of the Department of Meteorology inspected this machine and informed them not to bring it to Sri Lanka as it was not in working condition. Officials of the Auditor General’s Department stated that many years have passed for the preparation of a road to the relevant place and the equipment has become obsolete. They then pointed out that due to the collapse of the crane carrying this and the road, some equipment has been destroyed and the rest of the equipment is missing. It was disclosed that an investigation by the Police and an investigation by the Bribery and Corruption Commission is underway. Therefore, the Committee emphasized the need for effective projects to be implemented quickly by the Department of Meteorology to provide accurate forecasts with modern technology instead of such projects which have incurred huge losses and have completely failed.

Inquiries were made regarding the existing reports about the current drought situation not being accurately predicted.

The Director General said that he was informed about this during the Monsoon discussions held last April with the Irrigation Department, Mahaweli Authority and related government institutions and other regional countries. However, the Committee pointed out that the relevant institutions did not provide them with the relevant information, so until the situation is resolved through an act, a cabinet decision or a joint mechanism should be prepared with all the relevant institutions. It was also instructed to report to COPA in this regard within a month.

It was also inquired if there was data on the progress made in achieving the published predictions. But it was revealed that there is no such program and he advised to prepare a formal program quickly and report within a month considering the situation in other countries of the world.

While 453 rain gauges were installed, 73 of them were inactive. Furthermore, although 122 automatic rain gauges were installed in 2018, special attention was paid to the fact that 70 are currently not working due to issues such as batteries not working. The department was instructed to present a program within a month to install these rain gauges properly and get the data immediately.

It was also revealed that audit committees have not been conducted as the department does not have an audit officer. The Chair of the Committee pointed out that the Department of Meteorology under the Ministry of Defense is one of the institutions that scored the lowest in the COPA committee program for measuring the efficiency of government institutions and expressed his strong displeasure with the poor administration of the institution. Accordingly, the Chair of the committee advised the secretary of the Ministry of Defense to intervene more in the ministry to solve the administrative problems quickly.

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Presidential poll will be held first as scheduled: President affirms

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President Ranil Wickremesinghe affirmed that the Presidential election will be held as scheduled with the General Elections anticipated to be held early next year, the President’s Media Division (PMD) said.

The President gave this assurance during a meeting with the representatives of the United Republic Front headed by by its leader Parliamentarian Patali Champika Ranawaka at Sirikotha today.

The United Republic Front presented a proposal titled “A United Step for the Country” to President Ranil Wickremesinghe this morning (24), at ‘Srikotha’, the United National Party headquarters in Colombo.

After engaging in discussions with the President, the leader of the United Republic Front, Member of Parliament Patali Champika Ranawaka, along with his delegation, presented this proposal to the President.

Speaking at the event, President Ranil Wickremesinghe, highlighted the government’s concerted efforts over the past two years to stabilize the country’s economy, which had faced significant challenges. 

Stressing the government’s commitment to steering the economy towards recovery through strategic reforms, the President expressed his determination to continue these initiatives with the collective support of everyone.

Recalling his open invitation to all political parties to unite under a common agenda on behalf of the country, regardless of political differences, the President reiterated his willingness to embrace constructive proposals from all political parties as part of the nation-building efforts.

The President responded positively to the request made by MP Patali Champika Ranawaka to allow other political parties to participate in the upcoming negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) next month concerning the restructuring of foreign debts.

United National Party Deputy Leader and President’s Senior Adviser on Climate Change, Ruwan Wijewardena, along with Secretary General of the United National Party Palitha Range Bandara were also in attendance at the event. 

Representing the United Republic Front were Karu Paranavithana, Nishantha Sri Warnasinghe and Attorney-at-Law, Shiral Lakthilaka.

(dailymirror.lk)

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Dedicated SLBFE office to be established in Kegalle district

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In response to a joint request from the Kegalle Migrant Workers Committee and the Kegalle District political authority, Labour and Foreign Employment Minister Manusha Nanayakkara has assured the establishment of a dedicated Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLBFE) office in Kegalle District.

The request was presented during the Jayagamu Sri Lanka program organized by the Ministry of Labour and Foreign Employment in Kegalle. 

The Committee emphasized the need for an SLBFE office in the district, which has the highest number of migrant workers in Sabaragamuwa Province.

Commending the Minister for his prompt action in establishing a new SLBFE office in Nuwara Eliya District following a similar request, the Committee expressed confidence in his swift response to their current appeal. 

Minister Nanayakkara pledged immediate steps to open an SLBFE office in Kegalle and instructed officials from the Ministry and SLBFE to take the necessary actions for its swift establishment. 

This move aims to enhance support and services for migrant workers in the district.

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Parliamentary committee demands CBSL report on salary hike amid criticism

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Amidst growing criticism over the substantial salary hike for Central Bank employees, a key parliamentary committee has taken action, demanding a report from the Central Bank regarding the legal basis for such an increment without parliamentary approval.

Chairman of the Sectoral Oversight Committee on Alleviating the Impact of the Economic Crisis, MP Gamini Waleboda, disclosed that the issue was raised during a committee meeting where Central Bank officials were present.

The Central Bank is now expected to submit a comprehensive report on the salary increment in the coming week. Following the submission, the Sectoral Oversight Committee intends to summon the Central Bank and its Monetary Board for further examination.

MP Waleboda highlighted that the committee expressed strong criticism of the 70% salary increase for Central Bank employees, especially given the ongoing economic crisis, deeming it an immoral act.

“We instructed the Central Bank to provide a report by next week to justify the salary increase. They will need to provide the legal provisions that empower them to effect such an increment. We will summon the Central Bank and its Monetary Board after receiving the report,” stated MP Waleboda.

Both government and opposition Members of Parliament (MPs) have voiced objections to the Central Bank’s decision to raise the salary scales by 70%, with Chief Opposition Whip Lakshman Kiriella asserting that the Central Bank Act lacks provisions for such salary increases without parliamentary approval, deeming it illegal.

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