By M. Parakrama Bandara
On a great concept of late Lalith Athulathmudali, the Mahapola Scholarship Trust Fund was established by the Mahapola Scholarship Trust Fund Act No. 66 of 1981, with the objective of providing financial assistance for the studies of students those who engage in higher education.
The activities of this fund are performed by a Board of Trustees, and the chairmanship of this Board of Trustees is held by the Chief Justice. The Board of Trustees are represented by seven members including the chairman, and the minister-in-charge of the subject as the ex-officio founder trustee, the secretary of the relevant ministry, the secretary of the Ministry of Higher Education, secretary of Education, and two trustees appointed by the minister-in-charge are the other trustees.
The funds required for the founding of Mahapola Fund was contributed by the personal donations of Athulathmudali, and the balance of the fund by the year 2003 was Rs. 3.1 billion. Nat Wealth Corporation was established in the year 2003 for the management of main fund. By October 2016, this fund has raised up to Rs. 8 billion.
The main fund managed by Nat Wealth Corporation has been invested in Treasury bonds, Treasury bills and in fixed deposits of State banks, and an income of Rs.700 million is received, annually, through this. In addition, nearly Rs. 2 billion has been invested in fixed deposits of State banks and Treasury bonds, directly, under the Mahapola Trust Fund, and an income of Rs. 175 million, approximately, is received annually through this. Accordingly, by October 2016, the entire fund amounted to Rs. 10 billion, and the annual income was nearly Rs. 875 million.
Nat Wealth Securities Ltd. was established as a primary agent approved by Central Bank under a preliminary investment of Rs. 300 million by the Mahapola Trust Fund, and its total present value has been increased up to Rs. 1.1 billion. Income of this firm has also been credited to the Mahapola Trust Fund.
Further, Mahapola Trust Fund has founded the Development Lotteries Board under a 50% capital contribution, and nearly an amount of Rs. 900 million is credited annually to the Mahapola Trust Fund as its share of profit. Accordingly, the total annual income of the fund is nearly Rs. 1.7 billion.
At present, nearly 12,500 scholarships are offered annually to university students, and steps have been taken to offer scholarships to a total of 45,000 students of four academic years and 6,000 students of other education institutes including Advanced Technological Institute and Open University. Approximately Rs. 1.3 billion is spent annually, in this regard. The total annual expenditure including other operational costs is nearly Rs. 1.4 billion. Accordingly, an amount of Rs. 300 million, approximately, is carried forward as surplus for future scholarship payments.
The present Government has increased the value of monthly scholarship instalment up to Rs. 5,000 since May 2015, and an amount of Rs. 2,550 from the Mahapola Trust Fund and Rs. 2,450 from the General Treasury through the University Grants Commission are granted to each university for the said instalment. The amounts for instalments of the year 2016 up to November 2016 have been granted by the Mahapola Trust Fund to each university, and the sending of December month instalment to universities is in progress. Action has been take to send the contribution made by the General Treasury to the universities through the University Grants Commission, and the General Treasury has taken steps to issue the Treasury contribution to the University Grants Commission on time.
The annual income limit to get qualified for receiving Mahapola Scholarships is Rs. 300,000 and all the students below the said income limit will receive a Mahapola Scholarship. In addition, 10% of the total number of scholarships allocated annually will be granted on merit basis and there the aforesaid income limit would not apply.
All the accounts of the Mahapola Scholarship Trust Fund are audited by the Government Auditor. There, the accounts of the affiliated firms of Nat Wealth Corporation, Nat Wealth Securities, Development Lottery owned by the Mahapola Fund are also taken into account. Further, an Audit Committee and a Management Committee comprising trustees have been established for the supervision, control, and approval of the activities of the Mahapola Trust Fund.
Within the period of June 2015 to November 2016, two Audit Committee meetings, four Management Committee meetings and seven Board of Trustees meetings with the chairmanship of Chief Justice were held, and necessary decisions were taken with regard to the operation of the fund.
Ultimately, as its current Director, I inform that it can be declared with utmost responsibility that the Mahapola Trust Fund would act very strongly in the future, too.
(The writer is Director, Mahapola.)