USD 1.05M ADB grant omitted from budget – COPA

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Doubts were raised when it was revealed at the Committee on Public Accounts (COPA) that although USD 1.05 million was spent on the Sri Lanka Railways Master Plan in 2017 based on the financial grants of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the same was not included in the ministry’s budget or financial statements.

Accordingly, a report on this was instructed to be given to COPA. It was also revealed at COPA that the purchase of tyres and other spare parts for Sri Lanka Transport Board (SLTB) buses is in a problematic situation in the present competitive market due to the price increases.

This was revealed recently when COPA met under the chairmanship of Prof. Tissa Vitharana to examine the plans developed under the Ministry of Transport and Highways to provide efficient transport services to the public amid the present economic crisis.

Officials of the Ministry of Transport and Highways explained to the Committee about the future plans of the Ministry. COPA members asked about the quality of buses and the problems of bus operations. Officials pointed out that due to rising prices, it has become problematic to buy accessories for buses in today’s competitive market. The officials said there have been problems especially in making purchases after calling for tenders.

They also said even though the public transport service should be further developed, it has become a problematic situation for a public institution to buy equipment at the present prices and make a profit. Also, there was a discussion about delayed railway compartment imports that were planned to be imported under Indian loan subsidies in 2017. In particular, COPA questioned the officials about the non-use of 103 out of the 160 railway compartments purchased. The officials said the vacuum brake system is in operation and some of these train compartments are equipped with air brake systems. The MPs asked who gave approval to purchase non-compliant train compartments. It was stated that the officers are responsible for the decisions taken. The committee also discussed about providing diesel to private buses through filling stations belonging to SLTB depots. The officials specially pointed out that some private buses are getting diesel from these fuel stations and selling it at a higher price. They said it is cheaper for bus owners to sell diesel at a higher price than to run buses on the route.

Accordingly, the committee pointed out that this situation should be controlled and the public shouldn’t be inconvenienced, and a system should be developed to check whether the buses that pump fuel from the depot filling stations are running. The possibility of applying GPS technology for buses was also discussed.

Also, there was a discussion about combining railway transportation with new technology.

MPs Lasantha Alagiyawanna, Dayasiri Jayasekara, Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle, Niroshan Perera, Duminda Dissanayake, Weerasumana Weerasinghe, Dr. Upul Galappaththi, B.Y.G. Rathnasekara, and Dr. Harini Amarasuriya were present at the meeting.