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Several irregularities at Ports Authority revealed during COPE meeting

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The Sri Lanka Port Authority was called before the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) which met on Sep. 09, 2023 Chaired by Prof. Ranjith Bandara, Member of Parliament.

The Auditor General’s report for the year 2021 and the current performance were examined and the Secretary of Ministry of Ports, Naval and Aviation Services Mr. K. D. S. Ruwanchandra, Chairman of Sri Lanka Ports Authority Mr. Keith D. Bernard and a group of officials were summoned before this Committee. Moreover, on June 22nd, 2022, when the Sri Lanka Port Authority was summoned before COPE, the progress of implementing the recommendations was also examined.

Attention was drawn to the following points.

Proposal to COPE within 3 months

The COPE Chair Prof. Ranjith Bandara recommended that 3 proposals pertaining to revenue enhancement, cost management and efficiency enhancement of Sri Lanka Ports Authority be submitted to COPE.  The Chair recommended that the Port Authority will be summoned before COPE on the 8th of December. The 3 proposals should be submitted to the COPE the Chair further said.

Non-payment of money to be credited to the Consolidated Fund from 2016 – 2021    

The financial results of the Sri Lanka Ports Authority in the past few years were taken into discussion. The Committee questioned the officials present regarding the non-payment of 4.975 million rupees of the profit earned by the Sri Lanka Ports Authority from the year 2016 to the year 2021 which was to be credited to the Consolidated Fund.

Report on purchase of cranes

Contract entered into for purchase of 12 oversize cranes and 40 automatic gantry cranes to maximize operational capacity at East Terminal

COPE questioned the officials regarding not making amendments to the contract of the USD 282.56 million reached with the contractor to purchase 12 large cranes and 40 automatic gantry cranes to maximize the operational capacity of the eastern terminal. The Members of Parliament present pointed out that this was also discussed when the Sri Lanka Port Authority was summoned before COPE on June 22nd, 2022. 

The officials present mentioned that contracts were reached on the said in the year 2021 and despite the issuance of Letter of Credit (LC) by the Bank of Ceylon, these payments could not be made due to the prevailing situation in the country. The COPE Chair mentioned that due to the non-amendment of this contract, legal issues may arise in the future. Also, operational cost has been spent for this. As a result, COPE recommended to give a report on this said within a month.

Reduction in container handling capacity

COPE pointed out that according to the reports of the Auditor General, it is observed that the container handling capacity of Sri Lanka Port Authority of the Colombo Port has decreased from 81% to 28% by 2022. 

Furthermore, the Members of the Committee present pointed out that the western terminal has been working to increase the income through the activities of private investors. As a result, COPE pointed out that the ability to compete with the private sector should be also be created. 

The Committee was also questioned regarding the preparation of the comprehensive plan for the next 5 years. According to this, the officials pointed out that 50% of the comprehensive plans prepared for the next 5 years have been completed. The officials further agreed to present this plan to the Committee when the Authority is called before COPE again.

Decrease in the arrival of naval vessels at the ports of Colombo, Galle and Trinco

COPE also drew attention to the decrease in the arrival of naval vessels at the ports of Colombo, Galle and Trincomalee from the year 2018 to the year 2022. 

COPE also questioned the non-arrival of even a single ship at the port of Kankasanthura from the year 2020. 

The officials pointed out that though there was a decrease in the year 2022, it is getting better now. The officials mentioned that the ports other than the Colombo port were used to import raw materials such as cement and the reason for this was the decrease in the import of these raw materials during the past period. 

Thus, the Committee instructed to focus on further activation of the existing ports at the provincial level.

Suspension of plans to build multi-purpose terminal at Galle port

There was also a discussion about the plan to build a multi-purpose terminal at the Galle port and the fact that the project had to be suspended due to the 3-year delay in obtaining approval from UNESCO. 

On March 28th, 2006, the Government of Sri Lanka and the Japan Bank for International Cooperation had signed a loan agreement in this regard and it was necessary to obtain the approval of the UNESCO organization to carry out the construction in connection with the Galle Fort, which was designated as a world heritage. 

Given that this approval was not obtained for 3 years, it has been decided to suspend this project. But the Committee pointed out that the consultant fee of 418 million rupees spent for this purpose is observed as a net expense. 

The officials pointed out that due to the priority being given to the development of Hambantota port, the priority on Galle port was reduced. 

However, the officials mentioned that this money is not an idle expenditure as they hope to develop the Galle port as a tourist port in the future. The officials also mentioned that the Sri Lanka Port Authority has not been affiliated on the said matter.

Payment of OT despite excess employees

It was revealed that there are 914 excess employees in the Port Authority. 

Given the context, COPE pointed out that overtime allowances have been given to the employees. COPE also pointed out that it is observed that money has been given as overtime allowances in the year 2021 as well. 

Accordingly, COPE also instructed the Department of Management Services to pay attention to the excess number of employees and take necessary action. The Committee instructed to resolve the issue related to the number of employees when being summoned back before the Committee.

Failure to install CCTV, covering all gates and bonded Warehouse of SLPA

An inquiry was made regarding the non-installation of CCTV cameras covering all the gates and bonded Warehouse of the Sri Lanka Port Authority. 

The officials present said that CCTV cameras will be gradually installed for the places necessary. The officials pointed out that 538 cameras have been installed so far and about 400 will be installed in the future. 

The officials present said that they will install these CCTV cameras within 6 months.

Night Navigation system at Trinco port not functioning at its maximum

COPE also inquired about the Night Navigation system at Trincomalee port not functioning at its maximum.

Rs. 1.2 billion for food expenses in 2022

It was disclosed that 1.2 billion rupees have been spent on food for the year 2022. Accordingly, the Auditor General mentioned that 498 million rupees have been spent on snacks.

It was also decided to re-summon the Sri Lanka Port Authority on December 8th, 2023 to review the progress of these recommendations.

State Ministers Jagath Pushpakumara, Janaka Wakkumbura, Members of Parliament – Mahindananda Aluthgamage, Dayasiri Jayasekara, Rohitha Abegunawardhana, Eran Wickramaratne, S. M. Marikkar, Sanjeeva Edirimanna, Jagath Kumara Sumithraarachchi, Madhura Withanage and Prof. Charitha Herath were present at the Committee meeting held.

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Apple is the world’s first $1 trillion brand: Kantar

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Kantar BrandZ’s Top 10 Most Valuable Global Brands 2024 has named Apple as the world’s first trillion-dollar brand, holding onto pole position for the third consecutive year. 

Google, Microsoft, and Amazon join Apple atop the rankings, with McDonald’s rounding up the top 5.

Demonstrating how effective AI has become for driving brand value, NVIDIA has lept 18 places to crack the top 10 for the first time, holding sixth position with a 178% year-on-year brand value increase. 

Facebook rejoined the Top 10 after a one-year absence, while Oracle joined the Top 10 for the first time. 

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The G7 Summit begins today

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Leaders of the Group of Seven (G7) countries are meeting for a three-day summit, starting today (13 June) to discuss global affairs in the southern region of Puglia (Apulia), Italy.  

Heads of state of the seven members – the United States, Canada, Germany, France, Italy, Canada and the United Kingdom – as well as the chiefs of the European Council and the European Commission will be present at the event.

Italy, the host of this year’s event, has extended an invitation to more than 10 other countries for sideline discussions. These include UAE’s Mohamed bin Zayed, Algeria’s President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Notable absentees are Egypt and Saudi Arabia, who it  is reported, had been invited.

Support for Ukraine is top of the agenda. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is scheduled to arrive on the summit’s first day for two sessions dedicated to the war-torn country. The G7’s most anticipated outcome is an agreement over a $50bn loan for Ukraine backed by profits accrued on Russian assets frozen in the West. 

The war on Gaza is also expected to dominate talks. 

Pope Francis will also be among the guests – the first time a pontiff has been invited to the summit – for a session dedicated to artificial intelligence (AI). Other specific sessions will be on migration, financial issues and the situation in the Asia Pacific. 

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University applications open tomorrow 

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The University Grants Commission (UGC) has announced that online applications for university admissions for the academic year 2023/2024 will open tomorrow (14 June).

Applications will be available from 6 am tomorrow at www.ugc.ac.lk
The application deadline is 5 July 2024. 

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