Waste, Corruption at CEB

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What is of concern to the masses is the high cost of living (CoL) and jobs and not the Constitutions nor of the dilution of powers of the Executive President.

This is where UNP leader and Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe (MP) missed the bus in his special televised speech on Sunday. His speech was all about diluting the powers of the Presidency by speaking of the proposed 21st Amendment (21A) and not about bringing down the CoL.

Small wonder that under Wickremesinghe’s leadership, the UNP cumulatively has lost a record eight Presidential Polls and Parliamentary Polls, discounting the record number of local and provincial council elections which the UNP has also lost during this period. Currently, the UNP has been relegated to a record low one seat, which he occupies in the current Parliament.

The promise to abolish the Executive Presidency held substance in the run-up to the August 1994 Parliamentary Poll,  falsely promised by the subsequently successful PA Prime Ministerial candidate Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga and again falsely promised in the run-up to the November 2005 Presidential Poll by the then successful UPFA candidate Mahinda Rajapaksa, Kumaratunga’s mentor, but not now.

The masses’ present concerns are when will they get their next cylinder of cooking gas? When will rice and bread prices fall, so that they may be able to once more feed their families adequately? When will the CEB once more provide uninterrupted electricity, regardless of the GCE O/L exams or not? When will the price of milk foods fall? When will they be able to fill their three-wheeler taxis with petrol? Will there be a bus on the bus route they travel or will they miss the bus literally because the driver was unable to fill it with diesel as there was no fuel in the shed?

Currently, despite the fact that there are rains filling the Mahaweli Hydroelectric reservoirs, built during Wickremesinghe’s uncle President J.R. Jayewardene’s tenure, thereby daily providing cheap, uninterrupted electricity, comprising over 50 per cent of total electricity for 20 consecutive days to Sunday, according to latest CEB data, nonetheless, Ceylon Today’s  sister paper Mawbima, quoting Power & Energy Minister and SLPP MP Kanchana Wijesekera said that it’s proposed to increase the monthly electricity bill by three to four fold on the basis that the average cost of an electricity unit is Rs 47.18.

According to the Central Bank of Sri Lanka’s (CBSL’s) 2021 Annual Report, the cost of generating one unit of hydroelectricity is Rs 1.67, oil, more than 16 times that figure at Rs 32.03 and coal, more than six times hydroelectricity’s cost at Rs 10.68 a unit. Currently, a domestic consumer is charged at the rate of Rs 14.91 per electricity unit, nearly nine times the cost incurred by the CEB to produce one hydroelectricity unit as at last year.

Wijesekera, without laying the burden of electricity costs on the consumer, should also turn the searchlight inwards and ask himself the question, how much of that cost is also due to waste and corruption?

Corruption in tender and quotations awards and waste due to the almost continuous breakdown in the 900 MW Norochcholai Coal Fired Electricity plant built hardly 15 years ago.

According to the CEB’s 2018 Annual Report, which is the latest of such reports available on the CEB website, CEB that year had 26,331 employees and a total installed capacity of 4,187 MW as at last year, at the rate of 6.29 employees for each MW of power generated, assuming that the employee number in 2018 and 2021 was constant.

Meanwhile, CEB’s Malaysian counterpart Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB) which generates nearly six times more power than CEB at 23,896 MW as at 30 November 2021 had 27,423 employees at the rate of 1.15 employees for each MW of power generated.

This shows that CEB has nearly six times more employees than TNB for each MW generated. Therefore, Wijesekera should ask himself the question whether the public is to be blamed for this waste or the Government? TNB as at 2021 served 10.37 million customers. The number of customers served by the CEB was not immediately available.