COPE tells SriLankan to delay procuring aircraft

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The Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) has instructed the national carrier SriLankan Airlines to delay its procurement process to lease up to 21 aircraft by three months.

SriLankan Airlines was summoned before COPE yesterday (25) following a debate in Parliament regarding the plan to lease more aircraft.

COPE Member Dr. Harsha de Silva, in a shocking revelation, said the top management of SriLankan who appeared before the committee admitted that they did not know the gravity of the present economic crisis, when they advertised for more aircraft.

“It is inconceivable the SriLankan Board was that clueless about the economy given the background of members, all top professionals. However, they said there were no Treasury representatives, thus they didn’t know the gravity,” Dr. de Silva said.

In view of the prevailing economic situation, COPE advised the entire process should be reviewed and it should be ascertained whether the procurement process is in line with the proper methodology. COPE advised the Secretaries to the Ministry of Tourism and the State Ministry of Aviation and Export Zones Development. Furthermore, the COPE Chairman also recommended that a procurement guideline be duly prepared and submitted to Cabinet.

The Committee acknowledges that the replacement of aircraft at the end of the service period is essential for the continued operation of the airline. However, in view of the present economic crisis, it is important to pay more attention to this and meet the relevant requirements.

Ashok Pathirage, Chairman of SriLankan Airlines and other senior officials pointed out that several aircraft out of the 24 existing aircraft will be phased out in the near future and that the process would take some time, as the acquisition of aircraft cannot be done immediately.

Thus, considering the relevant market conditions, this process will take between 6-12 months and these activities will be carried out through the Ministry in a more transparent manner, Pathirage said.

The COPE members also appreciated the efforts of professionals with extensive experience in management in the country, working together to upgrade SriLankan Airlines.

The Chairman of SriLankan Airlines further pointed out that in the face of the present challenging situation, a large number of staff cuts had to be made and the salaries of the employees had to be reduced, while recalling with respect the contribution made by his staff to the betterment of the company.

By Methmalie Dissanayake