SOCs, racket related to DPJ Towers - State Minister Vidura | Sunday Observer

SOCs, racket related to DPJ Towers - State Minister Vidura

State Minister of Agriculture Vidura Wickramanayaka has alleged that former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe created Sectoral Oversight Committees (SOCs) in Parliament, as part of a major racket related to the DPJ Towers in Rajagiriya, the controversial building of the Agriculture Ministry.

The State Minister told the Sunday Observer the Westminster type SOCs were brought only to create an opportunity to rent out the DPJ building. “Former Prime Minister introduced SOCs to create this racket. Those committees were never housed in the Govijana Mandiraya. This clearly was a scam”, he said.

During the previous regime 16 SOCs were formed to overlook matters related to key aspects of governing such as, education, economy, and international relations, and the Govijana Mandiraya near Parliament was selected to house these SOCs.

As a result, the Ministry of Agriculture was moved from its usual administration complex and housed in the massive DPJ Towers.

The Ministry of Agriculture entered into an agreement with D.P. Jayasinghe Tours and Transport Co. (Pvt) Ltd on April 8, 2016, to lease DPJ Towers at No. 288, Sri Jayawardanapura Road, Kotte, Rajagiriya at a monthly rental of Rs.21million.

Interestingly, the Ministry had paid the monthly rental despite the building being almost empty for 14 months. The rental was increased to Rs. 23 million after 3 years. Besides, the Ministry has spent another Rs. 466 million to refurbish the building, and paid all monthly rentals up to year 2021.

These details were revealed in the testimony of the Chief Accountant for the Ministry of Agriculture, Niluka Jayasinghe before the Special Presidential Commission appointed by former President Maithripala Sirisena to investigate financial irregularities that occurred during the previous regime. According to Jayasinghe, the Cabinet paper to occupy DPJ Towers had been presented by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. “There is a lot of fraud that took place in this Ministry. I am currently going through details pertaining to these deals” the State Minister continued.

Meanwhile, despite a recent Cabinet decision to move the Agriculture Ministry from DPJ Tower to Govijana Mandiraya, the process has been delayed due to complicated agreements signed with related private companies, the State Minister said.

Agreements with private companies like Metropolitan and Fentons -to move items maintained by those companies- has delayed the process as they are busy with supplies to the new Military headquarters in Battaramulla. “I cannot accept this excuse, therefore I have given them time only till January 10” State Minister Wickramanayake said.