Rs 40B scanning project at Port in limbo
By Leon Berenger
A Rs 40 billion high-profile scanning project at the Colombo Port has been placed in limbo owing to internal and external protests and bureaucratic red tape, a topmost official said yesterday.
The scanning project, which was completed some six months ago with US assistance, cannot be put into operation owing to the protests launched largely by truck drivers, who claim that radiation from the machines is a serious health hazard, Customs Spokesman Sunil Jayaratne said.
He said the current scanning machines are on the blink and aren’t reliable, as was the case on Friday last week, when some 33,000 kilogrammes of smuggled Turmeric was allowed to slip out from the port complex undetected.
The consignment of the Turmeric, with a street value of some Rs 100 million, was later found inside a warehouse at Bloemendhal during a Police raid.
The detection also sparked off a major probe, leading to the immediate interdiction of two Customs officials.
“All containers at the Colombo Port are currently manually searched, stretching time limits to the maximum and the cost is very much higher, since the handlers have to be given a wage among other payments.”
“Not only that, the State must also pay back the monies it acquired from the US Government for the project, irrespective of whether the scanning machines are operational or otherwise,” another official said.
He said the agreement endorsed between the previous regime and the US Government was ‘hopelessly’ one-sided, adding that it was packed with corruption on the part of the officialdom that was tasked with the project.
Furthermore, he added that the so-called protest from the truck drivers and others regarding the new scanning project was smacked with ulterior motives by interested parties including errant officials at the port.
They said the new scanning project could easily relax delays, since it would be able to cover a large number of containers in a single day, which at present takes several weeks through manual checks and searches.