By Skandha Gunasekara
It was revealed at yesterday’s hearing of the Presidential Commission to Investigation (PCOI) irregularities at SriLankan Airlines, SriLankan Catering and Mihin Lanka that the evaluation process carried out by SriLankan Airlines in selecting a media buying agency in 2013 was flawed.
According to former SriLankan Senior Advertising Executive Manori Wijeratne, who testified before the commission yesterday, the airline in 2013 was working with three advertising agencies, namely Grants, Saatchi & Saatchi and Trumps, when SriLankan called in for proposals to select a single company for a six-month contract with the option of extending the time period.
Despite the advertising department carrying out an evaluation of the proposal, the officials of the Attorney General’s Department assisting the Commission highlighted numerous irregularities in the evaluation process.
One such irregularity was that although one advertising firm had obtained a score of 411 in the evaluation process, another agency that received a lower score of 377 had been awarded the contract.
“I only prepared the evaluation report. It was Manager Advertising Naomi Handunnetti who presented it to senior management and the CEO had approved,” she said.
Wijeratne was further queried as to why SriLankan used Kuma Stickers for placing billboards and hoardings instead of the advertising agency that was selected.
“Kuma did almost all hoardings from 2011. However, we now use the advertising agency that works with us to place hoardings,” she responded.
It also came to light that the advertising department of SriLankan Airlines had not used Contract Review Forms (CRF) until mid-2014 even though other departments of the airline had been using them for several years.
SriLankan Airlines Advertising Manager Lakshika Gunatilake told the PCOI that CRFs were introduced only after she joined the advertising department.
“The Contract Review Form was introduced after I came into the advertising department. Since I come from a procurement background I knew the importance of this and all other departments had this system in place,” she said.
In addition, it was revealed at the Commission that one of Gunatilake’s superiors, former advertising manager Naomi Handunetti had signed a Contract Review Form giving sponsorship to CSN in an illegal manner.
Handunetti had placed her signature in three positions where different authoritative individuals were to have signed to give authorisation and she had also failed to circulate the form among all other relevant managers.