Lavatory project stinks to high heavens

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A number of projects implemented in the Southern Province in relation to the Special Sector Development Projects including health had not been monitored by the Planning Secretariat of the Southern Province and as a result, the project has not been completed properly.

 The National Audit Office of the Southern Provincial Council cited that the progress of nearly 14 per cent of the projects planned to be completed during 2019 and 2020 was in very low level and has not been completed or implemented properly.

 Over Rs 7.8 million was allocated in 2019 for the construction of nearly 600 lavatories in the Southern Province. There are 11,246 families living in the Province, however, not every household has lavatory facilities. The Government implemented the project to build 600 lavatories but unfortunately, according to the report, only one beneficiary had built lavatories.

 In addition, around Rs 17 million had been spent in the 2019/2020 period for the three districts including Galle, Matara, and Hambantota. However, only 8,206 beneficiaries had benefited and only 27 lavatories were fully completed. Consequently, the expected results have not been achieved with the monies allocated.

 Approval for the project was granted on 24 May 2019 and the programme was launched in June 2019. Applications were issued to 700 beneficiaries, and among them, 600 were selected to be provided with a lavatory. Rs 28 million was approved for their construction and the relevant progress could not be achieved as the Commissioner of Elections notified to suspend the programme due to the upcoming polls in a letter dated 28 September 2019.

 The report also stated that the planning division had not carried out monitoring activities since the inception of the projects.

 “The Planning Secretariat of the Southern Province should monitor the projects implemented in the Southern Province and the work to be completed during the year should be finished within the relevant year. Action should be taken to implement projects properly and to obtain the expected benefits,” the audit report recommended.

 Meanwhile, an official from the Planning Division noted that low-income families in the area have no means of constructing lavatories and it has a huge impact on their quality of life in the past.

 “The beneficiaries for the projects will be selected by the Divisional Secretariats and they are the responsible authority to look after the project implementation and completion. Generally, such projects are organised in three ways. Accordingly, construction of lavatories by the Government through handing over tenders, and needed funds will be provided for the beneficiaries in two or three stages after digging the pit to buying needed properties and guiding the beneficiaries to fully construct it themselves by giving them the needed materials,” the official said.

 While commenting on the 600 lavatory construction project, he said that they come under the health sector of the Council as such projects mainly focus on public health and safety. However, he further opined that they were not aware of the project status and its incompletion. He also said that the Government fund allocation means, that only 50 per cent will be given at the beginning of the project and the remaining will be given at the completion of the project.  

 Also, without completing on-going projects, we will not be able to implement any new projects in the Province, he added.

“This project must have been cancelled by now due to the extended time period and if needed, the Government should implement a new project to build lavatories or to help low-income families in the region. Generally, the funds which were allocated by the Government will be available only for a relevant accounting period and that will mostly end by 31 December. If the project was not completed within the allocated accounting period, the project will be cancelled and the funds will not be provided for it. In addition, the responsible person should show progress and speak to the authorities to extend the project period along with the fund allocation, before cancelling the project”.

He further said that the lavatory construction project should have ended by 2020 with proper approvals from the responsible authorities as extending such projects will create many practical issues.  

 In the meantime, Divisional Secretariats should look after the problems and issues of the people in their jurisdiction and should take appropriate decisions and measures to support them.

By Eunice Ruth