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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2707

Shady CEB deals and corruption root cause of present electricity crisis in Sri Lanka

By Munza Mushtaq - Reporting from Colombo for Asian Tribune

Colombo, 25 July, ( The Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) today faces its worst-ever financial crisis, while its bureaucrats and the Power and Energy Ministry keep claiming that the financial calamity the Board faces is due to the excessive usage of oil-generated power plants. The CEB is
also reported to be losing approximately Rs. 45 million a day, while its short and long term debts have passed the Rs. 85 billion mark.

Beginning mid 2006, the ministry and the CEB initiated a new ploy to curtail the electricity consumption of the public, including switching off street lamps as much as possible. For a country where many roads are not illuminated, in the coming weeks, Colombo too would possible look like a rural village in some far-off place in the country.

But to a certain extent the ministry and the CEB have been successful in their 'latest attempt'. At least a handful of people have begun to purchase more fluorescent bulbs, switch off unwanted lights and also reduce the number of times they open the fridge, simply because they don't want to undergo the 'dark days' again which may greet us sooner than expected.

Anyway, all said and done, the CEB and the ministry have been successful in making the public feel guilty as if the fault is theirs that the CEB is facing such a dilemma today, but, appallingly, not a single CEB bureaucrat nor the minister in charge disclosed or acknowledged the root cause of this catastrophe: 'CORRUPTION'.

This malady at CEB beginning from members of its top management to even its meter readers rides 'very high'. And action is often initiated against only around 2% of such incidents, the reason being corruption extends to the top.

CEB General Manager Ranjith Fonseka considered the Chief Executive Officer of the Organization, is himself currently haggling with an investigation into him allegedly drawing an illegal allowance on a monthly basis. Another Ranjit, an Assistant General Manager is also alleged to be mired in such a controversy and many other shady dealings. They are just the tip of an iceberg. Many instances go unreported or undisclosed, sources said.

The most recent shady deal, involving a tender application for the supply of aluminum re-draw rods is learnt to have 'very well profited' a top CEB official. The contract worth millions of rupees had only two contenders, a Chinese company named Baotou Aluminum Company Limited and the Universal cable company of Malaysia.

The tender for the supply of 956 metric tonnes of aluminum re-draw rods, which are utilized for the creation of cable lines was closed on February 15, 2006.

The primary guideline was that whatever company bid for the tender had to with their application provide a sample of their product, so that the CEB can evaluate which sample was better. However, only the Chinese company had provided the sample product and the Malaysian company had failed to provide the sample. This was even recorded at the Tender opening session.

"This alone is a disqualification," insiders said. However, despite the failure by the Malaysian company to provide a sample of the product, the Technical Evaluation Committee recommended that the contract be awarded to the Malaysian company.

The Chairman of this technical evaluation committee had then claimed that he was awarding the Tender to the Malaysian company because the representative had come and given the product sample to him personally at his office and that his product was therefore better than the Chinese.

Due to the obvious irregularity, the Chinese company representative lodged a strong protest at this gross violation, and even lodged a Fundamental Rights Application bearing no: 175/2006 at the Supreme Court.

The CEB management however was then alerted and its Vice Chairman B.R.O. Fernando mediated and requested that the matter should be settled amicably and must not go to courts. It was then decided to retract the contract from the Malaysian company and award the Tender to the Chinese company.

At this announcement the irritated Malaysian company representative had claimed that he had reserved the 956 metric tonnes and thus he was helpless and insisted that he should be given the contract. But it is reliably learnt that the CEB officials had assured the Malaysian company that the Board would be calling for a fresh Tender shortly with the similar requirement and thus this new contract would be awarded to them and for the time being to bear with the organization.

"But here comes the fresh problem, the price of metal has decreased significantly in recent weeks. And compared to the price the Malaysian company has quoted, if fresh Tenders are called, the prices submitted by new companies would be far less than that of this Malaysian company. However if the CEB goes ahead ignoring the price difference and awards the Tender to the Malaysian company, the crisis-ridden CEB will lose hundreds of millions of rupees," sources disclosed.

- Asian Tribune -

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