Former agriculture minister Duminda Dissanayanke denied the statement made earlier at the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) that the lease agreement was signed with D.P.A. Jayasinghe & Company without the Attorney General’s approval said he had signed the lease agreement in 2016 with the AG’s approval.
PCoI Chairman Upali Abeyratne directed the former minister to submit those documents to prove that the AG’s approval was obtained to lease out the building.
Mr. Dissanayake said the plan to shift the ministry came up because of the sudden decision taken by parliament to relocate the Sectoral Oversight Committees at the Govijana Mandiraya even though it had still not been done.
When asked by Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Ayesha Jinasena why the ministry had not been relocated to either the ‘Suhurupaya’ building or the SPI building before renting out the D.P.A. Jayasinghe building, the minister said it was because there was insufficient space to accommodate the ministry.
Earlier the PCoI observed that according to a Cabinet decision by the Prime Minister in 2015, he has directed the Defence Ministry to attend to the urgent relocation of the Agriculture Ministry at the 14th floor.
Mr. Dissanayake said he had asked the Cabinet to provide them with land to put up a building to accommodate the agriculture ministry and the institutions coming under it. “However, the D.P.A. Jayasinghe building had sufficient space and that was why we shifted to that building,” he said.
When ASG Jinasena asked Mr. Dissanayake whether he was aware that the ministry's record room had not been completely shifted into the new building, he said he was not aware of that until now and that the former ministry secretary had informed him that the entire ministry had been shifted to the new building.
It was also earlier revealed that there were problems with the air conditioning system of the new building and employees had complained to the PCoI Police Unit that they had breathing problems when working in the new building.
When asked about it Mr. Dissanayake he was unaware of such issues and neither had he received any complaints about breathing problems.
The Agriculture Ministry had paid a monthly rental of Rs.21 million + VAT + NBT from April 2016 to April 2019. (Yoshitha Perera)