CoPE Chairman takes national carrier to task over losses in Parliament
Says over Rs. 17 b penalty paid to terminate Airbus agreement
CoPE finds termination agreement not examined by AG
Operational losses Rs. 116 b, losses in last decade Rs. 240 b
Auditor General working on fresh report on accumulated losses
Insists action to date inadequate, wants fresh investigation to punish those responsible
By Ashwin Hemmathagama – Our Lobby Correspondent
The Committee on Public Enterprises (CoPE) yesterday called for an independent investigation into the losses of SriLankan Airlines, to understand the causes and identify people responsible for the losses and to hold them accountable.
Efforts to revamp the SriLankan aircraft and the subsequent termination of the agreement for the acquisition of eight Airbus A350-900, which resulted in the Government having to pay a Rs. 17 billion penalty, sent the national carrier into a tailspin of losses, CoPE told Parliament.
Based on the CoPE investigation, the decisions reached by the SriLankan Airlines management and political authorities, acting without foresight to purchase and subsequently cancel the Airbus aircraft, has left the national carrier with a deficit asset base and losses that grow annually.
Opposition lawmaker and CoPE Chairman Sunil Handunnetti, presenting the investigation report, proposed an independent inquiry to punish those who were responsible for the damages. “The operational losses of the Airline stands at Rs. 116 billion and the total loss for the period 2009 – 2019 is Rs. 240 billion. At the same time, in addition, to these losses, the total loans owned by SriLankan Airlines to State banks and State institutions, including the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation, is Rs. 146 billion,” he revealed.
According to MP Handunnetti, it is unbelievable to imagine the national carrier of Sri Lanka, which is located at one of the most valuable air navigation hubs in the world, has turned into the most debt-stricken public enterprise suffering large losses.
“What are the true reasons behind these losses? Was it solely due to the natural causes that this State monopoly suffered so much losses, or had there been some overriding factors? These matters have to be unveiled thorough an independent inquiry. A separate investigation must be conducted for this purpose. Without stopping at that, the persons responsible for this huge loss should be identified, brought to book and subjected to punishment,” he added.
“The transaction to acquire eight aircraft of Airbus A350-900 class is one of the principal transactions unveiled when the SriLankan Airline was summoned before CoPE. As it unfolded before CoPE, the Airbus deal had not been conducted in a transparent manner, so that no loss would be caused to the Government. We assigned the Auditor General to prepare a detailed report in this regard and submit it to the CoPE with relevant documents. This report pertaining to SriLankan Airlines, which is presented to Parliament today, is not a detailed investigation into that loss. Instead, it is a report of the investigation into one transaction, which was instrumental in escalating the loss of the SriLankan Airlines, which had already been suffering losses,” he explained. (AH)