Handunnetti at COPE debate:


Decision to purchase eight A350-900 Airbuses :
Auditor General says Director Board meeting ‘unusual’ :

The SriLankan Airlines Director Board meeting, where the final decision on the purchase of eight A350-900 Airbus aircraft was taken, was held at former Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa’s official residence in Battaramulla on March 1, 2013, COPE Chairman and JVP MP Sunil Handunnetti revealed.

Opening the adjournment debate on the COPE report, Handunnetti told Parliament yesterday that the Auditor General in his latest report had stated that this Director Board meeting was “unusual”.

“Usually the SriLankan Airlines board meetings were held at the World Trade Centre or at the board room of the SriLankan Airlines. A consultancy firm known as ‘Seabury’ made an outlook presentation during this meeting. The selection of Seabury was also questionable. Rs 144 million had been paid to this company for its services,” he added.

Minister Kabir Hashim and State Minister Niroshan Perera intervening at this point questioned as to how a Director Board meeting could be held at the Speaker’s residence and as to whether any outsiders had attended the meeting.

“We have got information that former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was also the then Finance Minister, was also in attendance to this meeting. Did you question that in the COPE?” asked Minister Hashim.

“I presented what the AG had stated in the report. It is up to the relevant ministries to probe as to who were in attendance. You may have to check the CCTV for that,” replied Handunnetti.

Handunnetti further said that there had been no Cabinet approval for the airbus deal with AerCap. He highlighted that the ordering of the aircrafts when SriLankan Airlines had minus equities as well as their cancellation were highly questionable. The total sum of compensation paid to cancel the lease of four aircrafts was Rs 17,058 million. This issue is not yet over. The cancellation of outright purchase of the rest of four aircrafts is yet to be done and the compensation for that is not yet known,” he commented.

Handunnetti said that the COPE was told that the Secretary to the Public Enterprises Ministry had only attended first meeting with regard to the cancellation of agreements and that he was not invited for the meetings thereafter. “All the talks were handled by a four-member committee. The compensation had been decided by a leasing company known as ‘International Lease Finance Corporation’ and this company was later bought by ‘AerCap’.

“The involvement of Dr Rajan Sara, who was a Consultant to the former Finance Minister, in these discussions was also problematic. He was not a Consultant to the Finance Ministry but only to the former Finance Minister,” he said.

Handunnetti, referring to the AG’s report, said there were 38 individuals at SriLankan Airlines who earned salaries over Rs.2 million as at the end of 2018. “There were another 209 individuals who earned salaries of over Rs 1 million. Most of them are pilots and it is indisputable that they should be paid market salaries. But seven individuals in the higher management too had received salaries over Rs.2 million. Former CEO S Ratwatte had obtained Rs 3 million salary. How can he obtain Rs.100,000 salary per day when the institution was making loss?” Handunnetti questioned.

He said the COPE would present a full report on the SriLankan Airlines to the House in the future based on the latest reports of the AG. He said another COPE report would be presented discussing the common issues found in the State Universities.




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