The Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) held in Parliament on Friday (20), disclosed that the construction of the Central Expressway has been surrounded by multiple irregularities.
Accordingly, it was revealed that the more than Rs. 1.7 billion had been spent on the feasibility study of this road alone.
It was revealed that the delay in the commencement of work on the first section of the Central Expressway extending from Kadawatha to Mirigama during the time period 2015 to 2019, has caused a financial loss of Rs. 08 billion.
It was also revealed that the selection of SMEC for the first feasibility study took place without a procurement process. Furthermore, the project which was under 03 phases as the Northern Expressway in 2012 has been changed to 04 phases as the Central Expressway by the year 2015.
Deciding to construct the road Kadawatha to Mirigama instead from Ederamulla as initially planned, has thus resulted in additional feasibility studies carried out at a huge cost. It was revealed that the decision was taken by the Cabinet in 2015 without consulting experts on the field.
The COPE Chairman Prof. Charitha Herath thus directed the Secretary to the Ministry of Highways to submit a report on the financial loss incurred due to the change in the original project.
Minister Mahinda Amaraweera, State Minister Sarath Weerasekara, State Minister Dilum Amunugama, State Minister Ajith Nivard Cabraal, MPs Eran Wickramaratne, Jagath Pushpakumara and Premnath C. Dolawaththa, Ranjan Ramanayake and D. V. Chanaka were present at the Committee on Public Enterprises which met on Friday (20).
It was disclosed that an amount of Rs. 159 billion rupees is estimated to be spent and that this decision was taken by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Management (CCEM) and was further revealed that the construction work was delayed for four years due to a payment issue and work commenced in late 2019. It was also revealed that the said delay has caused a loss of nearly Rs. 8 billion.
It was also revealed that the procurement process has not been completed yet due to irregularities in the procurement process of Pothuhera – Galagedara which is the third section of the Central Expressway. It was revealed that the CCEM committee had pressured to grant the tender to Fujita despite MS Taisei should have been granted the tender in accordance to the process and thus causing, a delay in the procurement process.
The COPE chairman pointed out that while there is nothing wrong with having committees like CCEM, it has had a huge impact on the country’s financial discipline in its involvement in the procurement process dealing with billions. Adding to it the Chairman said that given that there was evidence in writing that the CCEM Committee had in some cases attempted to influence, it was problematic that such Committees for the purpose observing and assisting influencing the procurement process. Therefore, the Chairman emphasized the importance of carrying out the future work in relation to the said expressway in accordance with the procurement process.
The COPE Chairman inquiring about the current condition of the Central Expressway revealed that only 5% of the work on the Kadawatha-Mirigama section has been completed and 75% of the work on the second section from Mirigama to Kurunegala has been completed. The Secretary to the Ministry of Highways stated that given the construction of this section has been carried out with the help of local contractors and loans have been obtained from local banks, construction could be completed by June next year.
Meanwhile, the project director said that the procurement process for the Galagedara section from Pothuhera has resumed and work could commence in the coming year.
The Committee recommended that a progress report should be submitted on the progress of the first, third and fourth sections of the Central Expressway.
It was also revealed that a feasibility study for the construction of this expressway prior to 2012 had cost close to Rs. 284 million. The Chairman expressing his regrets as some of the feasibility study reports were of no use to the present Expressway and stressed the importance of managing all future financial activities.
COPE Chairman Prof. Charitha Herath also directed the Secretary to the Ministry of Highways to report on the impact of all feasibility studies on the project and its success. (Parliament)