H’tota Port foreign loan records missing

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Foreign loans obtained for the construction of Hambantota International Port are missing from the official Government account records, it was revealed at a Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) meeting.

This came to light when the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) was summoned before COPE to examine the Auditor General’s Reports of 2019 and 2020 and the present performance of the SLPA, on Wednesday (22).

It was also revealed that the SLPA, without obtaining approval of the Cabinet or the Treasury, had removed
Rs 147.7 billion of the debt and debt interest balance and Rs 31.5 billion of foreign currency conversion loss by 30 November 2017 as well.

COPE ordered the Secretary to the Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Civil Aviation to take immediate steps to include the information of foreign debts obtained to construct the port and provide a report within a month to the committee.

Moreover, the money received from leasing the Hambantota International Port in 2017 wasn’t utilised to repay the debts obtained to construct the Port and that amount had been spent for various other purposes.

The SLPA had given the balance of the foreign debts and the money received from the lease to the Treasury. However, the Treasury had spent that amount for other purposes, as the debt interest was low.

The Treasury, however, had repaid the debts and the interest, but it is not included as a debt repayment in the official accounts books. 

By Gagani Weerakoon and Methmalie Dissanayake