ADB funding for medicine: Govt. not allowed to participate in procurement process

Jagoda stands by accusations

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella has revealed that in respect of funds that had been made available by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to procure urgently needed medicine, the entire procurement process was handled by that organisation.

The disclosure was made at a hastily arranged media briefing on Wednesday (28) at the health ministry to answer queries raised on allegations pertaining to procurement of medicines and surgical items through the Indian credit line.

Rambukwella said that there had been instances when the ADB even questioned some items chosen by the Health Ministry.The media was told the ADB provided USD 67 mn, in addition to USD 200 mn made available by India, USD 100 mn from Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and USD 28 mn from China.

Minister Rambukwella maintained that the ADB procurement process was slow.

Education Secretary of the Frontline Socialist Party (FSP) Pubudu Jagoda, who challenged the procurement process in respect of the Indian credit line as well as Minister Rambukwelle’s recent controversial visit to India, said that the ADB policy was meant to deprive opportunities for waste and corruption.

Jagoda pointed out that the World Bank imposed strict regulations when Sri Lanka opened international competitive biddings for fertiliser.In terms of the World Bank guidelines, contractors and sub-contractors are required to permit the World Bank team to inspect records, accounts and other documents relating to the procurement process and audited by auditors appointed by the WB.

This was in relation to tenders that had been called for the procurement of 125,000 metric tonnes of urea for the Maha season utilising funds allocated under the USD 350 million emergency financing facility offered by the World Bank.

The Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) during Prof. Charitha Herath’s tenure as its Chairman accused Litro of misappropriation of funds. Declaring that Sri Lanka couldn’t restore the supply of cooking gas till the World Bank provided USD 70 mn to the government contribution.

Prof. Herath said it had not been possible to restore the cooking gas supply until the World Bank provided USD 70 mn to the government and Sri Lanka added USD 20 mn to the funds provided by the WB. The lawmaker claimed that the supplier whose bid had been rejected earlier had secured the contract through a front. He alleged that a tonne of gas that could have been procured previously at a cost of USD 96 was finally obtained at USD 129.One-time Media Ministry Secretary alleged that even the funds provided by the World Bank at a time the country was struggling to resolve the economic crisis had been misappropriated.

Litro has denied lawmaker Herath’s allegations.Jagoda yesterday toldThe Islandthat the government-led procurement process had lost its credibility. Responding to questions, the FSP official said that there was no point in reminding the parliament of its responsibility as regards public finance. The country wouldn’t have ended up bankrupt if parliament fulfilled its obligations, Jagoda said, adding that emergency loans received from India as well as other countries and lending agencies had to be repaid with interest. Therefore, it would be the responsibility of the government to ensure a corruption-free process, Jagoda said.

The FSP official insisted that Minister Rambukwella hadn’t answered the issues raised by him and a section of the media. The Minister is on record as having said that 90 percent of the media reports and allegations made against him were false, Jagoda said. The FSP official challenged MP Rambukwella to disclose what he believed was accurate.

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