by Frederica Jansz
It has been a few weeks now since we highlighted the blatant disregard and violation of procedures at Sri Lankan Airlines by the Chairman of Sri Lankan Airlines, Nishantha Wickremasinghe.
He was responsible for awarding the contract for the supply of Wine and Champagnes which is valued at approximately US$ 750,000 annually and also gave away the entire supply and management of the Sri Lanka Airlines in-flight duty free sales program valued at US$ 7 million annually to one and the same company, namely Phoenix Rising Venture now called Duty Free Partners.
In effect, the Chairman with his actions has done away with tender procedures for selecting suppliers and/or vendors, and instead on his own selected the Company (as admitted by him in a previous interview with this newspaper), owned and managed by Mr. Dilan Wirasinghe from Canada and Mr. Raju Chandirum from Sri Lanka respectively.
We also brought out to the public domain the large sum of foreign exchange that was brought in by his son (as admitted by him) which is tantamount to smuggling of foreign exchange to the Country. We also inquired for details of the Rolex Watch he had in his possession.
To date the Government has not taken any action to either investigate or to take corrective measures to rectify these irregular incidents of gross misconduct by the Chairman. Also what action has been taken to inquire into the smuggling of the foreign exchange and to check on the bona fides of the Rolex Watch?
Why would a Chairman take a personal interest to select a company to award the business of over US$ 8 Million annually?
How can an eminent Board of Directors allow the Chairman to push through the Board two large supply contracts to Phoenix Rising Ventures (Duty Free Partners) without having any proper evaluation and tender procedure?
The Board of Directors have a responsibility and fiduciary duty to look after the interests of the Airline and to ensure that no misappropriation corruption or bribery is taking place.
However, if the Board is also responsible for approving the proposals put forward by the Chairman for the appointment of this Company without any tender procedures, then the Board of Directors also stand guilty for having approved these contracts.
Is it that the Board of SriLankan Airlines cannot stand up to the Chairman Nishantha Wickremasinghe (Brother of the First Lady Shiranthi Rajapaksa) because of this very connection?
If indeed that is the case the Board should resign. But then resignations in this country are not only hard to come by but as impossible as asking a blind man to describe colour.
What can be concluded out of this entire saga is that the Board of Directors are as guilty for aiding and abetting in approving these contracts by bypassing established Company tender procedures. No matter how good it may be the Board will not know if there were any better offers that may have been possible as a tender was not called for either of these contracts.
The issue is this. Those Sri Lankans who have had experience with government appointed ‘Competent Authorities’ who were justly called ‘Incompetent Authorities” in the days of nationalisation under socialist regimes will recall with much horror, how once prosperous private enterprises such as the plantations were reduced to black holes of the economy sucking up public funds under these government commissars. The pundits of the Rajapaksa regime have obviously not read history and want to repeat the blunders at great cost to the country.
The pathetic state which Sri Lanka Cricket had descended to from being the World Champion is revealed in its financial record having incurred a loss of Rs. 7 billion. Queries by the Auditor General have gone unanswered and cricket officials had no clue how to answer them! Another, case in point.
This is the alarming state of public administration in the country. Nishantha Wickremesinghe boasts that he has an enviable track record in the Plantation Sector. He continues to function as Director at Finlays Group of Companies.
Clearly, President Rajapaksa has not only resorted to recruitment of his relatives to state entities but also hired incompetent private sector rogues who have succeeded in creeping into places quite foreign to them and as a result have cost this country billions not of rupees but of dollars!
COURTESY:THE SUNDAY LEADER