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Auditor General Says Investigation Completed; Litro answer to search

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Former Chairman of the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE), Professor Charitha Herath, MP, said the supply of LP gas had been cut off for eight months because a chairman of Litro Gas had canceled a tender awarded to a supplier.

The member of the SLPP national list said so during a public meeting organized by the rebel group SLPP, in Kandy, on Saturday (10). Herath was referring to the appointment of Viyathmaga activist Theshara Jayasinghe as chairman of Litro on July 06, 2021. Propane gas supply remained crippled until Jayasinghe’s resignation on April 14, 2022. Jayasinghe was replaced by Vijitha Herath, who was replaced by Muditha Peiris on June 13. The incumbent chairman was previously the managing director of state enterprises owned by the Sri Lanka Insurance Corporation (SLIC).

Herath argued that a dispute between local agents of the supplier chosen by Litro and another led to a disruption of supply following the cancellation of the tender. Former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Prof. GL Peiris and Dr. Nalaka Godahewa, who received the media portfolio during the late Gotabaya Rajapaksa administration, were among those present at the meeting. The rebel group is made up of 13 members. At the time then-president Gotabaya Rajapaksa appointed Theshara Jayasinghe as chairman of Litro, Anil Koswatte was its chairman and the state-owned company was embroiled in a controversy over the suspension of the audit of State.

Professor Herath said it was not possible to restore the supply of cooking gas until the World Bank provided $70m to the government. Sri Lanka added $20 million to funds provided by the World Bank. The lawmaker claimed that the vendor whose bid was rejected earlier got the contract through a facade. He alleged that a metric ton of gas that could have been bought before at a price of 96 USD was finally obtained at 129 USD. The former media ministry secretary alleged that even the funds provided by the World Bank at a time when the country was struggling. to resolve the economic crisis had been diverted.

Acknowledging they did not want to cause further disruption, Prof Herath said the crisis had been exploited by interested parties to divert up to 1.3 billion rupees. The people had elected Gotabaya Rajapaksa president, hoping for an end to waste, corruption and irregularities. Unfortunately, the public’s trust in the former president has been shattered. Auditor General WPC Wickremaratne said yesterday The Island that its officers had completed the investigation and would soon send their report to the relevant state enterprise for response.

COPE, under the chairmanship of Professor Herath, also investigated Litro’s failure to use the $160 million allocated through the Indian gas credit line. The parliamentary watchdog recommended the appointment of Litro’s board members through parent company SLIC rather than through the Ministry of Finance.

Prof Herath said an inquiry should be made, through the Auditor General’s Department, into the cancellation of the futures tender, which had been approved by Cabinet to buy gas from Siam Gas at 96 USD per metric ton and opting to buy 100,000 MT. of gas at a cost of US$129 per metric ton from an Omani company. Instructions had been issued when senior management of Litro Gas Lanka Ltd., Litro Gas Terminal Lanka (Pvt.) Ltd. and Sri Lanka Insurance Corporation were summoned before COPE to implement orders given by the previous Public Affairs Committee. companies and to discuss current performance.

Investigations revealed that since the end of the gas procurement tender in February 2021, tenders have been issued for 2.80,000 metric tons of gas and three gas suppliers have submitted bids. offers accordingly. Siam Gas Company submitted the lowest price at USD 96 per metric ton and accordingly the Cabinet decided to award the tender. Litro management publicly told COPE that gas could not be obtained from Siam Gas Company due to the economic crisis. as the banks in Sri Lanka were unable to submit the Standby Letter of Credit (SBLC) to Litro as per the terms announced during the tender process.