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Financial allegations rock legal unit of Sri Lanka Medical Council

27 Feb 2024 - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}      

  • Rs. 36.9Mn disbursed to external lawyers without formal agreements

By Sheain Fernandopulle

Allegations of financial fraud and irregularities have cast a shadow over the Legal Unit of the Sri Lanka Medical Council (SLMC) in the wake of an independent audit report revealing financial irregularities within the Unit spanning from 2018 to 2022.

The report, titled “Report on the Investigation of the Payment of Legal Fees from 2018 to 2022 and Evaluation of Functions of the Finance Division of the Sri Lanka Medical Council,” was submitted by a senior Additional Auditor General (Retired) on January 19, 2024.

Tabled and minuted during the monthly meeting of the SLMC on Thursday, February 22, the report detailed discrepancies in legal fee disbursements totalling approximately Rs. 43.3 million.

According to the audit report, a significant portion of the funds, approximately Rs. 36.9 million, was disbursed to external lawyers without formal agreements. The SLMC’s Legal Officer received Rs. 6.4 million without proper approval procedures, raising concerns among council members.

The audit report questioned the selection process for lawyers, the lack of proper documentation for payments, and the potential for obtaining legal services from the Attorney General’s Department, given the SLMC’s statutory authority.
In response to the findings, the SLMC’s Legal and Finance Units have been instructed to provide explanations at the next monthly meeting in March.

Meanwhile, the persistence of the legal officer in question, who remains on a contract appointment, has raised eyebrows, particularly given the gravity of the accusations and the potential damage to the SLMC’s credibility. Sources within the organization have suggested a close association between the officer and a senior official of the SLMC, adding a layer of intrigue to the unfolding scandal.

Concerned parties are now contemplating further action, including reporting the matter to the Bribery & Corruption Commission and the disciplinary body of the legal profession.

They argue that unless the contract appointment of the responsible officer is terminated promptly, appropriate measures to address the misconduct may not be fully realized.         

  •  Discrepancies in legal fee disbursements totalling approximately Rs. 43.3 million