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Political interference at Sathosa comes under the spotlight

23 November 2021 12:00 am - 2     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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Allegations have been levelled against a powerful minister for interfering in the business matters and management decisions at Lanka Sathosa

 

 

  • Minister Gunawardana on March 24, 2021 had submitted a cabinet memorandum, under the heading ‘Restructuring Lanka Sathosa Limited’ seeking approval to amend the minimum age limit for the post of DGM
  • The Minister is criticised for safeguarding Lanka Sathosa Chairman from the latter’s involvement in the much talked ‘Undu’ seed (White Orid Dhal) scamsaid proposal
  • As Ms. Bandara refused to do so there was no other option for the Trade Ministry, but to get another ministry official to approve the final interview mark sheet
  • Jeevanandan was alleged to have been found guilty by an independent commission appointed by the Trade Ministry to investigate into the recruitment of more than 200 investigating officers to the Consumer Affairs Authority (CAA) in 2018

 

According to documents this newspaper is in possession of applications have been called in February this year to recruit a Deputy General Manager (Marketing), Manager HR Administration, Assistant Manager (Legal) and Assistant Manager (Engineering) for Lanka Sathosa.The interviews were scheduled to be held on March 6, 2021. To include a Ministry Representative to the interview panel, Lanka Sathosa Chairman Rear Admiral (Rtd) Ananda Peiris has sent a request letter dated March 2, 2021 to Trade Ministry Secretary Badrani Jayawardena to nominate a Ministry representative. The other two members of the panel are Peiris himself and CEO A.P. Pandithage.

Having received this request, by letter dated March 5, 2021 (Ref: MT-DEV/7/1/13), Jayawardena had appointed Ms. B.M.S. Bandara as the Ministry representative.


“Before the interviews were conducted Minister Bandula Gunawardana had instructed Lanka Sathosa’s Board of Directors to select Savan Kariyawasam to the post of Deputy General Manager (Marketing)” reliable Sathosa sources said on condition of anonymity. 

 


When I was asked to come to the CID to give a statement on the garlic scam, I gave all details about the Undu seed scam as well. To my knowledge, the CID is yet to record a statement from Sathosa Chairman Rear Admiral (Rtd) Ananda Peiris

Thushan Gunawardena Former Executive Director Consumer Affairs Authority

 


Given that the age limit for the post was between 45 and 60 years and Kariyawasm is 35 years, Minister Gunawardana on March 24, 2021 had submitted a cabinet memorandum, under the heading ‘Restructuring Lanka Sathosa Limited’ seeking approval to amend the minimum age limit for the post of DGM (Marketing).


The cabinet memo states, ‘Amending the minimum age limit as 35 years as personal to Mr. Savan Kariyawasam, who is the applicant selected to the post of Deputy General Manager (Marketing) in the approved carder of Lanka Sathosa Limited and recruiting him to the post’.


No response


The cabinet of ministers later granted approval to Trade Minister’s said proposal.


“Although all applicants were requested to submit their original certificates to the interview board, Kariyawasam had submitted photocopies of his certificates; said to have obtained from foreign universities claiming that he will submit the originals within a few days. This he failed to do. In this background, when the three member interview panel was asked to recommend Kariyawasam’s eligibility to the post, Ministry representative Ms. B.M.S. Bandara has refused to place her signature to Kariyawasam’s final interview mark sheet claiming ‘it is against the Department of Management Services criteria’,” sources added.

As Ms. Bandara refused to do so there was no option for the Trade Ministry, but to get another ministry official to approve the final interview mark sheet. Hence, Trade Ministry Secretary Jayawardena has sent a back-dated letter to Lanka Sathosa Chairman nominating Additional Secretary K. Jeevanandan to the interview panel.
“By the time this letter was received, the interviews have been conducted and the eligible candidates have been selected other than to the post of DGM (Marketing). Though Badrani Jayawardena’s letter was dated February 2, 2021, (Ref: MT/SEC/AD 06/03), Chairman’s office received it in May. Why the Ministry Secretary nominated Additional Secretary K. Jeevanandan for the interview panel after the interviews were over, was to get him to sign Kariyawasam’s marking sheet. Other than the DGM’s (Marketing) interview summary, Ms. Bandara placed her signature on the other three final mark sheets; for which interviews were conducted in a transparent manner. Although Jeevanandan was not in the interview panel, he placed his signature on Kariyawasam’s final interview mark sheet, approving his candidacy to the post,” sources said.


Violating cabinet approval this stock has been sold at a reduced price, to a trader who supplies the same food stocks back to Sathosa for a higher price. The consignment has been sold at 7.10 am or 7.10 pm. Why did this transaction take place hurriedly either early morning or late in the evening

Sources



According to the sources, Jeevanandan has an obligation to help out the Trade Minister as it was Minister Gunawardena who did not interdict him when he was found guilty at an inquiry over illegal recruitment during the previous regime. 


Jeevanandan was alleged to have been found guilty by an independent commission appointed by the Trade Ministry to investigate into the recruitment of more than 200 investigating officers to the Consumer Affairs Authority (CAA) in 2018 on the directives of the former Minister Rishad Bathiudeen to Consumer Affairs Authority (CAA) during the previous regime.


After the initial investigation, charge sheets were handed over to Jeevanandan- who was the then Director General CAA- and Director Human Resources and Administration CAA for their involvement in the 
illegal appointments that were made. 


“The former DG and Director Human Resources and Administration CAA were found guilty and instructions were given to take action against them. Although CAA interdicted Director Human Resources and Administration, by the time the committee report was released, Jeevanandan had taken over duties as the Additional Secretary of the Trade Ministry. Although State Minister Lasantha Alagiyawanna and Cabinet Minister Bandula Gunawardana were officially informed about the findings of the committee report on January 22, 2021, the Trade Ministry did not take any action against the Additional Secretary. Following this incident, Badrani Jayawardena got him to sign the document what Ms.B.M.S. Bandara refused to,” sources alleged.


Till recently, it was the CWE that called tenders and supplied goods. But now Sathosa has been given a free hand to approach the open market and make purchases of food items. That is why poor quality food items are sold at Sathosa outlets at reduced prices

Sources



However later, according to the sources, Treasury Representatives at Lanka Sathosa Board had refused to offer Kariyawasam the said post as he failed to produce the original certificates to prove his credentials even by the end of May.


Secretary to the Trade Ministry, Badrani Jayawardena when contacted to find out why she had sent a back-dated letter appointing Additional Secretary Jeevanandan to the interview panel to approve, Kariyawasam’s appointment, Jayawardena had said she cannot recall the matter and promised to revert after checking the files. However, till the paper went for publication, Jayawardena did not respond.


When asked as to why the Minister of Trade failed to take action against Jeevanandan as directed by the Investigation Committee, Jayawardena said that the matter has been referred to the Public Service Commission (PSC). “Once the PSC informs us what action we should take against this officer, we will carry out that order,” she said. 


Meanwhile questions have also been raised as to why Lanka Sathosa does not purchase goods through Cooperative Wholesale Establishment (CWE), and instead has been given a free hand to make purchases from the open market at higher prices. “Till recently, it was the CWE that called tenders and supplied goods. But now Sathosa has been given a free hand to approach the open market and make purchases of food items. That is why poor quality food items are sold at Sathosa outlets at reduced prices,” sources said.


The Minister is criticised for safeguarding Lanka Sathosa Chairman from the latter’s involvement in the much talked ‘Undu’ seed (White Orid Dhal) scam.


Former Executive Director Consumer Affairs Authority, Thushan Gunawardena meanwhile, has lodged a complaint with the CID, regarding this scam although no action has been taken so far.
“When I was asked to come to the CID to give a statement on the garlic scam, I gave all details about the Undu seed scam as well. To my knowledge, the CID is yet to record a statement from Sathosa Chairman Rear Admiral (Rtd) Ananda Peiris. This consignment has been sold to a trader who supplies Undu seeds and flour to Lanka Sathosa,” Gunawardena told this newspaper.


The Cabinet of Ministers in June granted permission to a proposal made through a joint cabinet memorandum, allowing Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) to sell un-cleared food stocks lying in their yards to Lanka Sathosa to sell them at competitive prices for the customers through their outlets.


A joint cabinet memorandum was submitted on June 7, 2021 (Ref: MPS/2021/01/22), by Ports and Shipping Minister Rohitha Abeygunawardena and Minister of Trade Gunawardena, seeking approval to allow SLPA to sell the un-cleared perishable food stocks lying at SLPA and private yards and the essential food stuff that have been confiscated by Sri Lanka Customs to Lanka Sathosa to be sold at competitive prices for the consumers.
Despite the permissions granted by the Cabinet on certain conditions, this newspaper is in possession of Sathosa invoices that confirm how Chairman Rear Admiral (Rtd) Ananda Peiris on August 20, 2021 sold 13,975 kg of ‘Undu’ seeds purchased on August 19, from Sri Lanka Customs to a leading trader at 7.10 either in the morning or evening according to the bill issued by Lanka Sathosa Wholesale Stores Welisara. 


“Violating cabinet approval this stock has been sold at a reduced price, to a trader who supplies the same food stocks back to Sathosa for a higher price. The consignment has been sold at 7.10 am or 7.10 pm. Why did this transaction take place hurriedly either early morning or late in the evening? When the garlic scam came to light and the Police started arresting those who were behind the racket, the Chairman allegedly came to his office on Saturday September 18 and got all the related files from procurement, finance, quality assurance and internal audit to his office. 


All attempts made to obtain a comment from Lanka Sathosa Chairman failed. Although a text message was sent to Lanka Sathosa Chairman Rear Admiral (Rtd) Ananda Peiris and several messages were left with his Secretary Ms. Sadhana, Peiris did not respond to any of the messages until this edition went to press.

 
 

  Comments - 2

  • Buddhist Friday, 26 November 2021 07:40 PM

    Bandula Gunewardena should be brought before a Parliamentary committee.

    Sandy Saturday, 04 December 2021 08:13 AM

    Every corrupt politician must be voted out and inquiry should be conducted on their assets


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