Shocking waste of public funds to upkeep Madiwela MPs’ housing scheme

Shocking waste of public funds to upkeep Madiwela MPs’ housing scheme

The Island

For want of proper supervision and effective regulatory action on the part of Parliament, a sizeable amount of funds spent for the upkeep of the MPs’ Madiwela housing scheme, is believed to have been misappropriated.

Informed sources said unscrupulous elements had taken advantage of administrative shortcomings, particularly some officials’ lethargy, to help themselves to public funds.

The MPs brought the poor status of the housing units allocated to them to the notice of Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa, who sought the assistance of the Army to restore about 30 houses. The Army took just 10 days to complete their task and hand over the houses to the Speaker. Those responsible for the maintenance of the housing scheme restored about 20 houses.

The Madiwela scheme, which was acquired by the then President Ranasinghe Premadasa before his assassination on May 1, 1993, comprises 120 units. Although President Premadasa had planned to develop the scheme, it never materialized. Waste, corruption and irregularities, pertaining to maintenance, caused heavy losses to Parliament.

Sources alleged that some of the houses had been fitted with pantry cupboards, twice a year. Due to the absence of proper accounting of repairs unscrupulous elements could misappropriate funding.

They said that Parliament had so far failed to deal with a damning Auditor General’s report on the administration of the House. The AG had not covered the expenditure incurred for maintenance of the Madiwela scheme, though he extensively dealt with a range of irregularities and shortcomings, sources pointed out.

The seventh Parliament, which met on April 22, is yet to take up the Auditor General’s report which has dealt with financial irregularities, waste and corruption in Parliament since 2003.

In the run-up to the January 26 presidential election, President Mahinda Rajapaksa assured the electorate that he would bring in new laws to eradicate public sector corruption. Minister Dilan Perera told the media that strengthening Parliament to battle corruption would be the UPFA’s first priority after winning the April 8 Parliamentary election.

Former head of the Committee on Public Accounts (COPE) Wijedasa Rajapaksa told The Island that Parliament couldn’t absolve itself from the responsibility for rapid deterioration of financial discipline.

People couldn’t expect Parliament to act against waste and corruption when the House itself was mired in corruption charges, he said.

The Auditor General’s Department, too, had no authority to prod Parliament in the right direction, sources said, adding that no one seemed to be keen on conducting further inquiries on the findings.

Due to the reluctance on the part of the SLFP-led ruling coalition to act on the AG’s findings, absolutely no action had been taken to rectify shortcomings, though some improvements were made.

The same sources said that among the badly managed projects was a UNDP-funded parliament modernisation project, which had failed to come up to expectations. The government had chosen to act as if nothing was wrong, though severe shortcomings were known to the relevant authorities. The AG’s inquiry had also revealed a spate of violations with regard to financial laws and regulations governing Parliament.

Hardly any member would have gone through the AG’s report, though it was available. Irrespective of whichever party wins the next parliamentary election, there was no likelihood of a thorough investigation on corrupt activities that transpired in the past few years, the sources said.

Parliament had also swept under the carpet an AG investigation which revealed large scale corruption at State revenue earning institutions, including Customs. Parliament and the Treasury had ignored the AG’s report thereby thwarting further investigations to identify those involved in mega corrupt practices, the sources said.

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