COPE blames former People’s Bank Chairman, top Ministry officials for Rs.100 Mn loss | Daily News
Referred to Privileges Committee for failure to obey Committee order

COPE blames former People’s Bank Chairman, top Ministry officials for Rs.100 Mn loss

Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) yesterday observed that former People’s Bank Chairman Hemasiri Fernando, Additional Secretary R. Semasinghe and Finance Ministry Secretary Dr. R. H. S. Samaratunga accountable for neglecting a previous COPE directive not to give a six month service extension to the Bank’s former General Manager N. Vasantha Kumar.

The COPE also observed that the same failure had resulted in a loss of around 100 million rupees to the institution. The officials were referred to the Parliament’s Privileges Committee by the COPE recommending that the loss should be recovered from those who are responsible for the arbitrary decision to give the service extension to Vasantha Kumar.

The COPE summoned the board of directors of the bank and Secretary to the Ministry of Finance Dr. Samaratunga yesterday to question on various financial irregularities of the bank.

COPE Chairman JVP Parliamentarian Sunil Handunnetti said that during a previous investigation the Committee found that Vasantha Kumar had been paid a monthly salary of Rs 2.1 million. Then the COPE instructed the Bank to refrain from giving Kumar a service extension. The Secretaries of the Ministries of Finance, Public Enterprise and Ministers Mangala Samaraweera and Lakshman Kiriella too, had approved the COPE directive.

Alhough Vasantha Kumar was to retire from the Bank, the board of directors gave the service extension citing that his services were required to train his immediate subordinate official to the post that was to be vacant after Vasantha Kumar retired.

COPE chairman asked the incumbent General Manage Rasitha Gunawardena if he underwent any such training to which the latter answered in the affirmative.

When Chairman Handunnetti queried as to how long he had been serving in the bank GM Gunawardena said 38 years.

Kurunegala District MP Dayasiri Jayasekera remarked that this was a ‘fabricated reason’ to give Vasantha Kumar the extension.

MP Handunetti had pointed out that the salary of the People’s Bank GM was far higher than the standard salary of the GMs of other banks in the country. The six month service extension incurred a loss of Rs 15 million and another 37 million which had been paid as arrears to Vasantha Kumar. He added that additionally, the Bank had purchased him a BMW worth 16.6 million rupees. He added that Vasantha Kumar had retired with two vehicles. “Where on earth you find an official going home with two cars?,” queried MP Handunnetti. “How would you permit this sort of fraud?” Chairman of the Bank Nissanka Nanayakkara said he was not the chairman then. But there is a document stating that the retired CEO had a sentimental value for one of those cars and had asked for it.

“What are these reasons?,” queried Badulla District MP Lakshman Senewiratne. “How do you think that you could justify the wrong doing by giving these excuses? You have played with public money. The board of directors should be held responsible.”

COPE Chairman Handunnetti said that they had misled Ministers Lakshman Kiriella and Mangala Samaraweera.

He added that the board of directors had acted irresponsibly. They have overruled the directive given by the COPE and thereby caused a massive loss. “The person who should have been fired six month early has been given a six month service extension. You should be ashamed,” he said.

He added: “It is sad to see officials wasting public funds in this manner. Imagine the level of a person who after swindled the bank by various means going home with two cars stating that he has sentimental value for one of them? There are many public officials who do not even dream of doing such things. We know that Dr Samaratunga here is such a clean person. But such persons are rare among officials.”


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