Currently the issue in connection with power failures and black outs, the pointing of fingers at various quarters and institutions are continuing. It has now become a widely-talked subject at the COPE too. Expressing his opinion, JVP parliamentarian Sunil Handuneththi who is also the Chairman of the COPE revealed the following facts.
He said that the issue was something, but there is another crucial issue relating to the CEB. He had observed that both these issues have something in common.
“We summoned the CEB to the COPE. It was revealed at this meeting that there is a network of companies which are owned by the CEB. These companies had never come up before the common affairs committee under parliamentary control. The chairmanship of these companies is held by the Chairman of the CEB as Ex-officio.
His actions are mainly guided by the company’s decisions. In the event of a power purchase from these companies, that was decided by the CEB, the decision on the price is determined by the said companies. The Board of Directors of these companies consist mainly the same people. Some of those in the CEB too hold office in these companies. For example, ‘Heladanavi’ purchased the Puttalam power plant. Heladanavi’s Chairman is the Chairman of the CEB as well”
He queried in such situations, how are they going to distribute their dividends. Who are the share holders, and who are the Directors. This information had not been provided to Parliament. When they had appeared before the COPE, they were asked about the several companies that had been floated and how the allocation of shares had been manipulated and also what the subsidiary firms were.
Handuneththi said that while they were investigating the above, the power failure was experienced.
He accepted that there can be technical issues connected with it, but they cannot be repetitive. When the Tsunami struck, people were unaware, but now they are convinced as to what measures to be taken if another catastrophe strikes. But the CEB has no proper plan to face another power crisis. At the final COPE discussion with the CEB, questions were raised on the following matters. For a year Rs. 200 billion worth power is purchased from private sector. At the time of this purchase there is a price structure prepared by the CEB engineers, which is only known to the buyer (CEB) and the private vendors (seller). There had been no audit on these purchases. The price structure should be made known to auditors as well, but it seems they are ignorant of this procedure.
In this scenario, an individual or a group could cause a power crisis and create a situation forcing to purchase a Transformer or similar equipment and forcing to buy power from outside sources. In brief, they could create an artificial crisis. We cannot say definitely that such a situation exists but certain lapses in the present system shows it could happen. It is evident that the CEB is now bent to serve the whims and fancies of certain officials and heeding to the requirements of people.
This is not related to the issue of a transformer. What we identify as the secret at the CEB is the power purchasing mechanism. It is an issue now and country needs to be kept informed. It is for the first time that a State enterprise like the CEB was summoned before parliament on an issue which surfaced recently. So this is the first time an issue of this nature had surfaced. We are yet to cover the entire strata, as it needs technological assistance, accounting procedure, and most importantly, the support of the people.
It is noteworthy to mention that no sooner people heard about the CEB being summoned to COPE, a grade 12 schoolboy of Ananda College submitted a plan to confront this power crisis. It proved that, despite the CEB having a large number of engineers, they were incapable of having any such plans drawn up to meet with any eventuality.
Handuneththi elaborating further said that everyone is aware of the limitations in Hydro Power. Coal power plants are not environmental-friendly and very costly. Yet, during the entire 365 days of the year, we have solar and wind power. At least a basic study of alternative power generation system that are suitable to us should be in our possession. The common response of these officials to these alternate suggestions is they are very costly. But we have no alternative but will be compelled to continue with buying power from the private sector. The diesel and coal power plants were commissioned by the CEB engineers themselves.
We have requested from all, including former ministers to divulge any information they have in this regard, so that the COPE could proceed towards taking actions. For example, if the maintenance of these transformers is the prime issue, they are free to provide us with the 2016 maintenance plan.
If there is no such plan, then there should be an officer responsible for it. Not to wait until a transformer blasts and then to say “a transformer blast has taken place.” The engineers drawing high salaries are not expected to say only this in lighter vein. Presently the CEB is immersed in a quagmire and retrieving from it is a herculean task.
Immediate action should be initiated to find out how many retired engineers and other officers of the CEB are running these private power plants; how many are behind the establishing of the diesel power plants and how many with live contacts continue to sell power to the CEB.