Who pilfered Rs 421M of public money?

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Confusion has arisen as to who pilfered Rs 421 million of public money, following contradictory statements made by the State Pharmaceuticals Corporation (SPC) and a private software company, EWIS Sri Lanka, with regard to a staggering sum of money spent to develop an inventory management software for the SPC.

While the SPC claimed at the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) that Rs 644 million was paid to EWIS Sri Lanka for the software that does not meet its requirements, the company claimed the cost for the total project was
Rs 223 million.

The SPC said so, when the SPC and the Medical Supplies Division of the Ministry of Health were summoned before COPE last week.

They said, the software took seven years to develop and implement. The contract was granted to a local company and the software was developed from 2008 and had only been implemented in 2015.

In response to queries by the COPE Chairman, the SPC representative said, the institution makes a payment of Rs 5 million monthly as a maintenance fee, even though the software does not work as intended, pointing out that only some entries can be made into the system.

Furthermore, the University of Colombo School of Computing estimated it would cost Rs 7 billion to upgrade the existing system to one that fulfils the requirements of the SPC.

However, speaking at a media briefing on Friday (3), a representative of EWIS Sri Lanka said only Rs 83 million was spent on the software developed for the Medical Supplies Division and the cost for the total project was Rs 223 million.

Company Chairman Sanjeewa Wickramanayake said, 45,000 purchase orders have been placed through this system since 2015, while 950 purchase orders were placed from January 2020 to date.

“If this system is not working properly as the SPC claimed at COPE, how did they place orders through this system? Some Rs 4.9 million was due after the warranty ended. The warranty ended on 23 October 2020. From November, they paid us Rs 4.9 million, not from 2015,” Wickramanayake said.

Speaking further, the Chairman said from 2015 to 2017, for two years, the system was maintained without any other payments, and as per the contract, from 2017 to 2020 the warranty period of three years was given, adding that the Rs 4.9 million maintenance fee of 83 hospitals per month was given to EWIS Sri Lanka from November 2020.

Wickramanayake also said, a clarification pertaining to the matter has been submitted to COPE.

By Methmalie Dissanayake