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Sri Lanka overpaid Indian fertiliser company in 2021: Audit report

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The previous government paid more than double the market price to import nano nitrogen liquid fertiliser from an Indian fertiliser company that was selected through an unsolicited proposal, and received only seven percent of the total order placement despite settling the amount in full, an audit report has revealed.

The National Audit Office report found that, during the 2021 Maha season, the Indian Farmers Fertilisers Corporative Limited (IFFCO) was selected to supply the fertiliser through its local agent United Farmers Trust (UFT) based on two unsolicited proposals it had submitted.

The company is yet to pay Rs 48 million as total outstanding for the failure to supply the agreed fertiliser consignment.

Due to Sri Lanka’s foreign currency shortage at that time, the Indian company proposed to supply fertiliser on a credit basis.

Even though agreements had been entered into on November 22, 2021 for the import of 4,250,000 bottles (2,125,000 litres) at USD12.45 a bottle containing 500ml of liquid fertiliser, only 306,454 bottles of fertiliser had been imported in four instances. The Government had to incur a cost of Rs711,863,096, the audit report said.

In his recommendations, Auditor General W P C Wickramaratne said that steps should be taken to recover the over payment of Rs49,846,406 for the first stock (100,224 bottles) either from the relevant company or the parties that had approved payments without proper evaluation due to “failure of responsible parties such as Ministry of Agriculture, Procurement Committee, and Technical Evaluation Committee in specifically identifying the substantial price payable for a bottle of liquid nano fertiliser.”

The urgent import of liquid fertiliser from India commenced in September in the wake of the previous government’s disastrous policy of organic farming by banning chemical fertilisers, pesticides and weedicides in the country in April 2021.

In the following month (May), thee then Cabinet of Ministers approved a proposal to import organic fertiliser from a Chinese company – Qingdao Seawin Biotech Group Co Ltd – which was turned away by Sri Lankan authorities when it reached the Colombo Port without a valid Quarantine Certificate.

The audit inquiry also noted that even though the price of a 500ml bottle of nano liquid fertiliser had been mentioned at INR240 – equivalent to USD3.185 – on the Indian manufacturing company’s website, they were imported to Sri Lanka at USD5 per bottle according to Cusdecs (Customs declaration).

“However, it was not confirmed during the audit that the importation could be carried out at the price indicated on the website. It had been revealed at a meeting held on November 10, 2021 that the price of a liquid fertiliser 500ml bottle was USD5.25 (FCA). Despite having such knowledge, 100,224 bottles of nano nitrogen liquid fertiliser had been purchased at USD12.45 each and 206,232 bottles had been purchased at USD10 each without making purchases at a low price,” the report indicated.

The audit inquiry also observed that the Agriculture Ministry had not taken steps to sign an agreement with the supplier at a price beneficial to the government, and the supplier, his agent and the manufacturer had gained a profit exceeding a fair profit margin.

Ahead of the import, no experiment had been carried out in a laboratory or model farm before the release of this fertiliser to cultivation lands. Fertiliser had been imported without proper evaluation of the requirement of nano liquid fertiliser, the inquiry observed.

The inquiry noted that the fertiliser was given under different names to farmers without ascertaining the contents, which was questionable, and that proper attention had not been paid to the qualifications of the relevant supplier.

(sundaytimes.lk)

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School outdoor activities suspended over soaring temperatures

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The Education Ministry has instructed all respective school authorities to refrain from making students participate in strenuous outdoor activities until Friday (March 01) at schools as temperatures are expected to rise further.

Accordingly, Sports Day events, sports practices or any other scheduled outdoor activities are urged to be suspended for the time being.

Provincial and zonal authorities of education have been instructed to brief school principals about the matter, the ministry said in a press release.

In addition, school administrations are required to comply with the health guidelines issued by the Health Ministry and the Education Ministry.

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Court suspends divestiture process of SLT & Lanka Hospitals

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The Court of Appeal yesterday (27) issued an interim order preventing authorities from proceeding with the divestiture process of Sri Lanka Telecom and Lanka Hospitals Corporation PLC, until March 12.

Three Petitions were filed for Sri Lanka Telecom PLC including by Lyca Mobiles, and S.M.R. M company, while two petitions were filed for Lanka Hospitals Corporation PLC including by Lyca Leasing Holdings.

Upon the oral submissions made by President’s Counsel Kuvera De Zoysa, Court of Appeal Justice D.N. Samarakoon issued notices on respondents, returnable for March 12.

The petitioners named Minister of Finance Ranil Wickremesinghe, State Minister of Finance Shehan Semasinghe, the members of the special Cabinet-appointed negotiating committee for the purpose of selecting pre-qualified bidders for the strategic divestiture pertaining to 51.34% shares of Lanka Hospitals PLC and several others as respondents.

Kuvera De Zoysa, PC with Raslka Dissanayake, Sajana de Zoysa, Dinusha Pathirana and Shablr Huzalr instructed by Sanath Wijewardane appeared for the petitioners.

The petitioners had informed the court that they had submitted bids per the required criteria for the divestiture of the Sri Lankan Government’s shares of 50.23% in Sri Lanka Telecom PLC and 51.34% in Lanka Hospitals Corporation PLC.

The petitioners alleged that, however, the Cabinet of Ministers had rejected the bids without providing any clear explanations, adding that the decision was against the law.

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Lankan convict in Gandhi assassination case passes away

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Santhan alias T Suthendiraraja, a Sri Lankan national who was one of the six convicts released in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, died on Wednesday morning at the Rajiv Gandhi Government Hospital (RGGH) in Chennai.

Santhan, who was released by the Indian Supreme Court in November 2022, was kept at the special camp near the Tiruchirapalli Central Prison.

Last week, the Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO) in Chennai issued an order to deport Santhan to Sri Lanka, however, he was admitted to the RGGH for treatment for a kidney-related ailment.

Addressing the reports, E Thenirajan, Dean, RGGH, said that based on the directions of the Tiruchirapalli district collector, Santhan was admitted to the hospital on January 27.

Thenirajan said a team of doctors were treating him at the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and constantly monitoring him. He said Santhan was diagnosed with cryptogenic cirrhosis or a liver disease.

“He suffered a setback to his health yesterday (Tuesday) night. He had lost consciousness and we were providing treatment. Around 4.30 am today (Wednesday), he suffered a cardiac arrest. He was revived following a CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) procedure and was on ventilator support. However, he failed to respond to further treatment and passed away at 7.50 am,” he said.

Thenirajan said they would carry out the post-mortem procedures now and take further measures to send his body to Sri Lanka.

According to court documents, Santhan is believed to have fled then strife-torn Sri Lanka in 1991 and reached India by boat, along with Sivarasan, who led the assassination team and was never caught alive, and a few others. According to the Supreme Court order, Santhan’s role in the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi was direct and active.

Santhan was initially sentenced to death for his involvement in the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991, however, his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. He was released in November 2022, along with five other convicts, after spending over three decades in prison.

(The Indian Express)

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