Controversy rages over an alleged fraud amounting to Rs. 620 million at the Lanka Electricity Company (Pvt) Ltd (LECO) and the return of a top LECO official, who is in the centre of investigations, to the Ceylon Electricity Board.
The appointment of Dr. Susantha Perera, the interdicted LECO General Manager, has created a conflict within the CEB.
|CEB Chairman Vidya Amarapala discussing the issue at a news conference on Friday.
Dr. Perera, however, claims reports on the investigations do not reveal a fraud of that magnitude.
According to CEB sources, the Rs. 620 million scam pertains to the purchase of land and building by LECO at a higher price. However, Dr. Perera said none of the three investigation reports reveals a fraud of such extent. Besides, they clearly stated that no officer could be named directly responsible for the purchases made, he said.
Dr. Perera said purchases were made by a committee appointed by the Director Board of LECO. When the committee recommends, LECO hires a professional valuer to value the land or building recommended for purchase. Afterwards, the same committee or a different committee, again appointed by the LECO Director Board, would negotiate the price and purchase.
However, CEB Chairman Vidya Amarapala said the matter was still being probed by the Bribery Commission, the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) in addition to a disciplinary inquiry being held at LECO.
Commenting on Dr. Perera’s appointment at the CEB after he was interdicted from LECO, the CEB chairman said he was re-recruited by CEB General Manager Badra Jayaweera.
He said Dr. Perera, a former Chief Engineer at the CEB, was appointed LECO General Manager following a CEB board decision and therefore, his return to the CEB could come only with the approval of the CEB board, Mr. Amarapala said. He accused the CEB General Manager of violating the standard procedure.
Mr. Amarapala said that when he sought an explanation from Ms. Jayaweera, she had said she placed Dr. Perera in a position he deserved. “We didn’t take any action against her, though according to administrative regulations, we have the authority to hold a disciplinary inquiry against her,” the CEB Chairman said.
Meanwhile, LECO Chairman Chandana Haputhanthri said that, since Dr. Susantha Perera was GM-cum-CEO of LECO, all financial and administrative work came under him, and he was interdicted in order to conduct an impartial investigation. Hence, a charge-sheet has been sent to Dr. Perera and they are awaiting a response on or before May 31.
The charge-sheet, Dr. Perera explained, doesn’t contain a single allegation of fraud, while reporting a loss, according to the government valuator. The charge directed at him is lack of supervision over his subordinate officers who evaluated and recommended the purchase. “However, none of my subordinates have been charged on any count,” he said.