Letter dated March 30th 2012 sent by Mr.W.A.S. Prasanna, Actg Director General (Overseas Administration) states thus:
“Instances of administrative and financial irregularities resulting from your administration of the Sri Lanka Embassy in Paris have come to the attention of this Ministry. In this context, while noting the following instances, explanations on the same are hereby requested:
1. Renovation of the Chancery Building
Reference your letter dated 10 January 2012 in response to Ministry Fax No. 16 of 09 January 2012.
Regarding the renovation of the Chancery building you were requested by this Ministry to provide three quotations and a Technical Evaluation Committee Report (TEC) (Please see Ministry Fax No. 438 of 03/10/2011). However, the requested information was furnished with your letter No. SL/FRA/AA/10/03 dated 16 February 2012. It is noted from the annexure that the TEC report is dated 16 February 2012 and the information of the quotations are contained therein.
As you would no doubt agree it is evident that the TEC Report has been compiled and submitted after the contract had been awarded and presumably after the work carried out as you had requested for funds to effect the payment by your Fax No. 467 of 30/9/2011.
As you are aware a TEC Report is a pre-requisite for contracts of this nature to be awarded. It may be noted that on receipt of a TEC report the Ministry Procurement Committee (MPC) evaluates tenders together with the recommendations of the TEC report before deciding on the suitable contractor. Therefore, the quotations and the TEC report should have reached the Ministry when you sought approval for renovations on 23 September 2011.
While observing the rationale in the TEC Report of not looking into registration details of contractors, it is noted that the second lowest quotation is from a registered contractor/company. The difference between the two quotations is Euros 301.50 and considering the fact that this contractor is registered, it would have been in order to seek that company’s service rather than an unregistered company, which would justify the slightly higher quotation.
It must also be highlighted that the quote that was provided in this respect is a “purportedly forged document.” This is further strengthened by the fact that the Mission has not pursued this matter in seeking payment and has chosen to ignore the payment requirement despite the work been completed. A thorough perusal of the available relevant documents and sequence of events prima facie justify these assertions.
The Mission, without obtaining Ministry approval had commenced the renovation work which is a gross violation of the Government Procurement Guideline 2:14:1 (ii) b. Therefore, the awarding of this contract to S N T B Enterprise General De Batimante has failed to meet the stipulated practice. This action on your part is tantamount to a gross violation and disregard of the existing rules and regulations that governs your appointment and the conduct of an ambassador, actions punishable under the Penal Code of Sri Lanka leading to breach of trust, corruption and fraud as the case maybe.
The transparency on the award of this contract comes into question. Therefore, your explanation is requested with regard to the failure of not adhering to the aforementioned guidelines, which is a part of Government Financial Regulations System.
2. Temporary accommodation for U.A. Razee, Second Secretary
U.A. Razee, Second Secretary had been accommodated on a temporary basis from 04 May to 22 November 2011 while a Second Secretary who was appointed subsequently found accommodation within two weeks. As per the practice that the Ministry has observed in the past and present an officer is only permitted to remain in “temporary accommodation” for a period not exceeding thirty days due to the exorbitant costs involved.
It is pertinent to recall that the Ministry Fax No. 457 of 13 October 2011requesting that Razee should move into permanent accommodation before 31 October 2011 considering the expenditure being incurred for the temporary facility. These instructions prompted Razee to urgently find permanent accommodation and he accepted the premises earlier rejected by him; this also after a period of six months.
As explained in the Ministry Fax No. 519 of 24 November 2011 the Ministry had to spend approximately Rs 7 million for this purpose which was approximately 37% of the supplementary allocation granted for 2011 for house rent for the Ministry as allocated by the Treasury. The Ministry approved the said payment in order to avert the hotel taking legal action due to default. It also has to be stated here that the permanent accommodation was found, the rent of which is marginally lower that the expenses incurred for the temporary accommodation thereby further justifying the waste of public funds.
This action demonstrates lack of regard to adherence of Financial Regulations, supervision by the Head of the Mission over a financially related issue, and conduct of the junior officer which caused this heavy financial loss to the government.
Your explanation is sought in the context of failing to supervise the financial control in the above context as this expenditure has been highlighted as stated above. A reimbursement of such expenses exceeding thirty days is sought and your explanation as to why such reimbursement should not be pursued is sought and accountability for this colossal waste of public funds.
3. Purchase Order for a Sofa Settee for Official Residence
Following your request for covering approval for the advance payment of Euro 2490/- by your Fax No. 480 of 13 October 2011 for a Sofa Settee, the Ministry by its Fax No. 466 of 19 October 2011 informed that approval cannot be granted for the said purchase as it failed to obtain approval of the Ministry Procurement Committee. As indicated in (1) above the purchase of all goods and services above Rs 1 million is required to be approved by the MPC.
The cost of the Sofa Settee was quoted as Euro 8300/- (approx. Rs 1, 267,200 according to the parity rate which then prevailed). The Ministry Procurement Committee was of the view that an expenditure amounting to Euro 8,300 for a Sofa Settee was exorbitant and a gross disregard to curtailing such extravagant expenditure. The committee was further appalled at the reason given for such extravagant expenditure of public funds by stating that “the Minister of Foreign Affairs is visiting the residence of the Ambassador” and such a Sofa Settee therefore is required. With all due respect to the Hon. Minister of External Affairs, such a visit does not in the Ministry’s view justify an exorbitant expenditure of Euro 8,300 for a sofa settee and neither does the Hon. Minister wishes for such exuberance at public expense. Our records also indicate that the Hon. Minister never visited your residence to date.
It is evident, therefore, that the Mission has violated the Government Procurement Guideline stated in Para (1) above.
This conduct is a gross violation of authority and misuse of public funds. Therefore, please show cause s to why the Ministry should not surcharge the advance paid in respect of the sofa settee from the concerned officers and take further action for not adhering to GOSL laid down procurement procedure.
4. Assigning duties among staff
Some members of the diplomatic staff have brought to the attention of this Ministry (in writing) that they are being overlooked and marginalized in the process of allocation of duties in the Mission, which directly comes under the purview of the Head of Mission and such responsibilities being handed over to non diplomatic locally recruited staff, thereby raising serious concerns on the aspect of responsibility and accountability vis a vis GOSL.
It is alleged that the Locally Recruited (LR) staff have been assigned work of a sensitive nature normally handled or attended by the diplomatic staff of the Mission. It is also alleged that due to their improper allocation of duties the Mission has not been able to achieve its objectives
It may be noted that this Ministry would hold an inquiry into non adherence of Administrative Regulations and the wilful alienation of diplomatic staff who have been appointed by the Ministry taking into consideration the expertise that is required for the proper implementation of the policies of the Ministry in keeping to with the best interest of GOSL.
The wilful negligence on your part prima facie points towards a purposeful attitude in undermining the need for achieving the stated objective by the Ministry and thereby failing to act in the best interest of the Government of Sri Lanka. The majority of the members of the Mission have informed this Ministry in writing on gross violations and negligence on your part as the ambassador and also have requested to provide approval for them to relinquish their responsibilities and return to the Ministry in Sri Lanka.
In this context, your explanation is requested on the said allegation.”