Glaring financial irregularities surface | Sunday Observer

Glaring financial irregularities surface

Parliament watchdog committee- COPE on Tuesday (September 03) ordered the Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) to suspend all operations of its subsidiary, ‘Cricket Aid’ with immediate effect and gave authority to the Auditor General to conduct a full-scale audit inquiry on all accounts of ‘Cricket Aid’ from 2016 to date and submit a report to Parliament within two months. This decision was taken after SLC officials who appeared before the COPE failed to provide satisfactory answers to questions raised by COPE members regarding annual accounts and operations of ‘Cricket Aid.’

SLC Secretary, Treasurer and several other SLC Executive Committee members appeared before COPE on Tuesday. Following the questions raised by COPE members, it was revealed that ‘Cricket Aid’ has failed to achieve its set targets. It also came to light that although ‘Cricket Aid’ had been set up in 2004 it had been registered only in 2016. The COPE Chairman said that ‘Cricket Aid’ has not acted according to the instructions given and a proper audit inquiry has not been conducted on their accounts over the past three years. Instead of authorising the Auditor General’s Department to conduct audit queries, ‘Cricket Aid’ has conducted audit queries on their own through private audit firms. ‘Cricket Aid’ had paid Rs. 694,000 to two audit firms only to audit their nine income receipts and 19 expenditure receipts.

During the deliberations of the Committee it was found that the top level SLC officials didn’t have sufficient knowledge regarding the operations of the subsidiary ‘Cricket Aid’. The SLC officials came under fire frequently from COPE members for their lack of preparation and creating confusion by not giving specific and direct answers.

‘Cricket Aid’

COPE Chairman Handunnetti said ‘Cricket Aid’ was set up not to play cricket but as a charitable arm to assist kidney patients and various other charitable work. The COPE Chairman inquired from the SLC officials as to what amount ‘Cricket Aid’ had spent for charity purposes as it had been established for the purpose of eradicating chronic kidney disease. It was revealed that ‘Cricket Aid’ Manager Upali Seneviratne had drawn Rs. 3.9 million as his salary for two years whereas it had spent only Rs.2.4 million on charity. The ‘Cricket Aid’ Manager had been recruited in September 2017 but he had been paid a salary from July 2017. Even though SLC Secretary Mohan de Silva said that ‘Cricket Aid’ had supported deaf and blind associations, the SLC officials failed to provide any specific cases.

The COPE Chairman ordered the Sports Ministry Secretary to provide a detailed report to the COPE comprising the total revenue and expenditure of ‘Cricket Aid’, the amount of money given to ‘Cricket Aid’ by the SLC and the total amount of money spent by ‘Cricket Aid’ to assist kidney patients and other charit able work in 2016, 2017 and 2018. It was also revealed that ‘Cricket Aid’ had not made amendments to the company constitution authorising the Auditor General to audit its accounts as instructed by t COPE in 2016. The COPE members also questioned about the power given to SLC to provide funds to ‘Cricket Aid’.

It also came to light that lifetime membership had been given to some board members of the ‘Cricket Aid’ using certain clauses in the company constitution. They had been considered as lifetime members and not board members. When this Company was registered in 2016, the then board members including Thilanga Sumathipala, Jayantha Dharmadasa, Mohan Anthoney, Chulananda de Silva and K.Mathivanan had been given lifetime membership. The COPE Chairman told the SLC officials that there can’t be lifetime members in any institution and they should quit their posts when their tenure expires. Therefore, COPE gave a recommendation to the SLC to change the lifetime membership of ‘Cricket Aid’ and consider them as board members until their tenure expires. SLC Chief Executive Officer Ashley de Silva said they have changed that particular clause and in future only elected members will be appointed to the Board of Directors of ‘Cricket Aid’.

The COPE Chairman further said when instructions had been given to SLC to appear before the COPE on three earlier occasions, they deliberately avoided it citing various reasons. In this fourth instance too , they attempted to avoid appearing before t COPE. Handunnetti said Sri Lanka Cricket has not yet implemented the recommendations issued by COPE.. Therefore, an environment should be created for the Auditor General to conduct an audit inquiry on t Sri Lanka Cricket.

The COPE members pointed out that the SLC executive members were not well prepared when they appear before COPE. In order to further investigate SLC, the COPE Chairman ordered the SLC officials to appear before COPE once again on September 19.

Suriyawewa Stadium  

The COPE members also laid special emphasis on the Suriyawewa International Cricket Stadium and instructed SLC officials to submit a report on the total expenditure incurred in the construction of the stadium and the report prepared by the Government Valuation Department. The COPE Chairman said they asked for a complete valuation report on the Suriyawewa stadium on June 20, 2016 but it had not been submitted to COPE so far. The SLC officials stated before COPE that as per the COPE order in 2016, the valuation report called for by the SLC from the Government’ Valuation Department regarding the Sooriyawewa International Cricket Stadium was not acceptable. The SLC officials said consequently a new four member valuation board has been appointed for the reassessment.

Responding to a question by COPE on why the Government’s valuation was not accepted, the SLC officials said that the valuation states a lesser amount than what the Agency had contributed. Accordingly, the Government’s estimation for the construction of the stadium is Rs. 900 million when the SLC’s valuation report estimated it to be about Rs. 2.2 billion.

Meanwhile, the SLC officials said the China Harbor and the Ports Authority had spent Rs. 5 billion for the stadium. Therefore, the COPE ordered SLC to submit a report on the construction of the Sooriyawewa Cricket stadium within a month after a disparity of about Rs.3 billion was found between the value of the property and the cost incurred in building it.

COPE member Sujeewa Senasinghe told the SLC officials that the Cricket Board is the most corrupt institution.Whatever money they collect, it disappears and when another board is elected to office they say there was money in that account but it had disappeared passing the buck to others. People are blaming each other and cricket has deteriorated. All of us know it very well. Therefore, Senasinghe requested to keep the Cricket Board transparent as much as possible because it has become a very corrupt place today. Senasinghe said “we are not angry with you but with the situation of the cricket in

Overseas accounts

The COPE Chairman questioned as to how many overseas accounts Sri Lanka Cricket maintains. SLC CEO Ashley de Silva said that SLC has not opened up any offshore accounts but the Association which has been appointed by SLC would have opened up accounts in those respective countries. Cope member Lakshman Seniwiratne told the SLC officials “don’t get angry, Sri Lanka Cricket is a den of thieves.”

COPE Chairman Handunnetti further said when the tenders were called for broadcasting rights from 2013 to 2020, the highest bid was US$ 53 million and the minimum bid was US$ 34 million. However, the Auditor General has submitted a report to the SLC that a US$ 18 million financial loss has incurred when those broadcasting rights were given to television channels.