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.