Hyatt heist

Friday, 3 July 2015 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

I was flabbergasted to read the details of this criminal wastage of the public’s money, in yesterday’s FT.

The capital came from the Insurance Corporation which “coughed up” Rs. 8.5 billion, constituting 46%, and Litro Gas and Employees Provident Fund “provided” Rs. 5sg billion each, representing 27% each. 

The project was two pronged: a hotel and spa in Colombo and another in that paradise on the planet, Hambantota. The Colombo project is three years behind schedule, and the one in paradise still remains on paper. 

Yet, the horrific reality is:

Due to “mismanagement”, the project cost has doubled from the initial projection of Rs. 13 billion. Mismanagement or downright robbery?

Rs. 300 million has been “spent” on the Hambantota project, even though the foundation stone is yet to be laid.

A lawyer was paid Rs. 10 million without any agreement (who was the lawyer?); a fittings supplier has been paid Rs. 80 million without proper approval (who was the supplier?); a contract was signed for $ 37 million with an ‘international’ contractor the day before the last presidential election (!!) (who was the contractor?); Rs. 12.8 million has been spent on a signing ceremony (what was signed?); a ‘foreign consultant’ was hired at Rs. 16 million a month (who was this super-consultant?)

No board meetings have been held; major decisions involving public funds have been by e-mail. 

Many of the contracts were awarded without open tenders and were on a personal basis (who were the recipients?)

The new board says that it short of nearly Rs. 9 billion to complete the project but they have funds to carry on “for now”…

The Insurance Corporation was not made up of the private savings of the Rajapaksas, nor was the EPF the personal piggybank of Cabraal. The former is a public corporation and the latter consists of the retirement funds of every hard-working man and woman who is struggling to make ends meet if they are leading honest lives.

We knew that we were being bled to death and that’s why the whole bunch was packed off to await judgment, which will surely come, as night follows day, and in the meantime to toss and turn sleeplessly, endlessly.

But we the public need to know names. Who was the Chairman of the Insurance Corporation under whose watch his board permitted the investment of these funds and did not even ask for board minutes to ensure that public money was being properly utilised?

Likewise, who was the Chairman of the investment committee of the EPF at the Central Bank, who decided that Rs. 5 billion of the public retirement benefits could be sent up in smoke, and not give a second thought to it? Who was the lawyer, who was the fittings supplier, who was the international contractor and who were the recipients of the contracts without open tender?

On 8 January, we made one unalterable fact abundantly clear: this country belongs to us, the Sri Lankan people, and we call the shots. It was our money that was criminally wasted on this Hyatt project, like so many, many others. We must know the names of the criminals. Name them!

Mahendra Fernando