Former Secretary of the Agriculture Ministry, B. Wijeratne informed the Presidential Commission (PCoI) that the former Agriculture Minister Duminda Dissanayake had pressurised him to sign the lease agreement between the Ministry and DPJ towers in 2016 to relocate the Agriculture Ministry.
Testifying at the Commission last week he said that the Ministry had no intention to move from the ‘Govijana Mandiraya.’ “The decision to relocate the Ministry was taken in 2016 because of the constant pressure from parliament,” he said.
Earlier it was revealed to the Commission that the Prime Minister has appointed a committee headed by the Secretary to the Prime Minister, Saman Ekanayake, to check a suitable place to relocate the Agriculture Ministry and three private owned buildings were found to relocate the Ministry temporarily, until completion of the third stage of Sethsiripaya.
However, when questioned, the former Secretary informed the Commission he was not aware of such a committee appointed by the Prime Minister.
Witness further said that Mr. Ekanayake had called and informed him that they had found DPJ towers to relocate the Ministry and he had visited the building with the former minister.
“There were a number of issues in this building and we realised that a large sum of money will have to be spent on this building to set up the ministry,” he said.
The commissioners also questioned the witness as to why he had failed to send the final draft of the lease agreement to the Attorney General’s (AG) Department, the witness said that the AG had made five observations to the first draft of the agreement and there was no need to send this agreement to the AG.
However, it was earlier revealed to the Commission that the Ministry had failed to obtain the AG’s approval to the lease agreement signed to relocate the Ministry at DPJ towers. During the testimony, denying this statement, former Minister Duminda Dissanayake informed the Commission that former Secretary to the Ministry B. Wijeratne had told him verbally that the AG had granted approval for the lease agreement.
Mr. Wijeratne said he was vigilant about what he said to the former minister and he always used the word consent rather than approval.
Earlier it was also revealed to the Commission that there was no termination clause in the lease agreement and the total value of the agreement was over Rs. 1.3 billion. The Agriculture Ministry had paid Rs. 21 million-plus VAT and Nation Building Tax per month, during the period April 08, 2016 and April 07, 2019.
From April 08.2019 to April 07, 2021 the Ministry was supposed to pay Rs. 24.1 million-plus VAT and Nation Building Tax, monthly. (Yoshitha Perera)