I am compelled to write this in response to an article penned by Groundviews editor Sanjana Hattotuwa. His article is titled “Response to article in Colombo Telegraph”.
Colombo Telegraph recently reported that Hattotuwa was removed from the CPA’s senior staff after verbally abusing a female co-worker. We also reported that Hattotuwa had asked the Coordinator of CPA’s Media Unit to put down expenses incurred at the Gallery Cafe of Paradise Road Galleries as ‘travel expenses’. Documents in our possession show that Hattotuwa spent Rs 20,865 on food and alcohol for a night out with friends using foreign tax payers’ money.
Instead of answering the allegations Hattotuwa alleges that I kept the said bills for ten years and asked why they appear only now in the public domain.
This is completely untrue. The truth is that I first saw part of that evidence only towards the end of 2011.
He says, “I find it curious that the article refers to the Media Unit coordinator, who isn’t named, as a male. The last time CPA’s Media Unit had a male coordinator was before 2004. Since 2004, the institution has had two female coordinators – one from 2004 to 2012, and the other from 2012 to date.”
If that is the case, the truth is that CPA’s Media Unit had a male coordinator until October 2007.
Hattotuwa says, ‘In 2009, a series of email exchanges with the then coordinator of the Media Unit, CPA’s Executive Director and the Editor of Colombo Telegraph, an erstwhile employee of CPA, also clearly alluded to allegations along the same lines as that which is now in public.’
The above is partly true. Yes in 2009, I wrote to then coordinator of the Media Unit, CPA’s Executive Director regarding this allegation as well as their double billing expenses scandals. i.e getting grants from two donors to do the same task and duplicating receipts/ hotel bills and other bills to submit to donors. Hattotuwa was involved in that exchange although he has not mentioned the fact. He is correct in that when I wrote to the trio I was a still a CPA employee – a researcher and the co-editor of the Media Monitor magazine. There was no website called Colombo Telegraph. I had no proof in my possession at the time. I wrote because I was concerned about what I’d heard at that time.
The reference to the 2009 exchange is very important. It raises the question why Hattotuwa did not refer to it in his initial response to Colombo Telegraph. He claimed total ignorance and suggested that the issue be taken up with Saravanamuttu, the Executive Director of CPA.
Also, by referring to the exchange Hattotuwa clearly contradicts Saravanamuttu’s claim that he (Saravanamuttu) had no knowledge whatsoever about this matter.
We specifically asked Saravanamuttu whether he was aware of any transgression perpetrated by Hattotuwa and whether, in his opinion, it is standard practice in the CPA or in other NGOs he works with or whose activities he is acquainted with to obtain project monies to cover expenses incurred in activities not related to the relevant projects. He said, ‘The answer to both your questions is no’.
Hattotuwa’s article shows that Saravanamuttu is lying because the latter knew about this at least as far back as 2009.
The truth is that both Hattotuwa and Saravanamuttu were well aware that questions were raised about Hattotuwa’s spending habits.
Here are other facts which Colombo Telegraph invites Hattotuwa to comment on.
I only managed to get a part of that bill on September 07, 2011. I forwarded it to CPA’s Executive Director Dr Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu but he never responded. I only managed to speak to the then Unit Coordinator in February 2014 to get confirmation, but we couldn’t find the full documents. We only managed to get them two weeks ago.
As the Colombo Telegraph team is very well aware, we managed to get the second part of the Hattotuwa’s Gallery Café bill only yesterday. After we received it, naturally we had to change the amount and the text of the draft article. We also had to contact various people regarding this issue.
While living in exile investigating this kind of stories is a very difficult and costly exercise. Hattotuwa’s allegation that I held on to bills for ten years is a falsehood and is misleading.
It might be useful to state the context in which I raised such issues at that time. I was then a Director of the Sri Lanka Press Institute (SLPI) and the Press Complaints Commission of Sri Lanka (PCCSL), a Council Member and and Executive Committee Member of the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX), and Co-Convener of the Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (Saravanamuttu was the other Co-Convener). I had just resigned from the Free Media Movement as its Convener. This was just after Sunanda Deshapriya was sacked from the CPA after being found guilty of financial malpractice.
Interestingly in one of the emails written in 2009 on this matter I specifically wrote that it was not only Sunanda who has been engaging in such practices. I indicated that there was more to come. Perhaps it is because Hattotuwa has remembered all this after initially claiming ignorance that in his article he says he expects attacks to continue.
Let us assure Hattotuwa that the issue at hand is financial malpractice in organizations that advocate transparency and accountancy that we are concerned about. Naturally, individuals advocating the same within those organizations as well as in public forums, open themselves to questions if they transgress. We have provided Hattotuwa enough opportunity to clear his name on both the issues (verbal abuse of a female co-worker and claims for personal expenses that had nothing to do with work).
It is strange that he is now questioning the quality of discourse featured on Colombo Telegraph! Hattotuwa could clear the matter up once and for all if answered the following questions instead of beating around the bush.
Did you or did you not “verbally abuse” a female coworker at the CPA?
Did the CPA remove you from its senior staff?Can you tell us what words you used to abuse her?
Did or did not Dr Saravanamuttu move to stop you from being sacked from the CPA?
Have you on any occasion attempted to secure or secured money from the CPA in order to defray costs incurred personally, i.e. to pay for goods and/or services unrelated to projects?
Have you prevailed upon any CPA official to mark expenses under project line items that are not relevant to what was purchased?
In your opinion, is it standard practice in the CPA or in other NGOs you are working with or whose activities you are acquainted with to obtain project monies to cover expenses incurred in activities not related to the relevant projects?
We would appreciate a comprehensive response at Hattotuwa’s earliest convenience, in line with the principles of accountability and transparency which he frequently champions.
BBS Rep / June 4, 2014
All you guys,
The only intent in washing dirty linen in public is to belittle and demean. It is a particularly dishonourable act, especially when previous friends are involved in such backstabbing. These kinds of low acts are not the domain of the Uvindu and Hatthotuwa types only but sadly the general persona of almost all Sri Lankans as well – shame.
AVB / June 4, 2014
I see this as a good thing, but these should be handed over to proper authorities to investigate for illegal or unethical acts.
One of last Austrian labor minister minister was accused for stealing labor union money of $22,500 from year 2002~2006 (small amounts spend for fun in the period of 6 years, $22,500??). At one stage, whole file was handed over to police by labor union and the ex-minister got jail sentence.
If Hatthotuwa misused money, it should be investigated by authorities and punished if guilty.. The main advantage is this will reduce or minimize future occurrence of the same fault by others.
JULAMPITIYE AMARAYA / June 4, 2014
“If Hatthotuwa misused money, it should be investigated by authorities and punished if guilty.. The main advantage is this will reduce or minimize future occurrence of the same fault by others”.
WAHT ABOUT OUR MONEY MISSUSING BY SO CALLED SAVIOURS OF NATION AND THEIR RILATIVES AND FRIENDS.????????????????????????????????
AVB / June 4, 2014
That doesn’t give rights to others to steel or misused..
paul / June 6, 2014
I think great selfless patriots like Uvindu nor Hotta are behind this slinging match but rajapakse clan. We have to be aware of this blaming the innocent. Always blame Rajapakses. That is the safe option, anytime, anyday, anywhere.
SameOldGame / July 5, 2014
@BBS Rep, I find your comments surprising to say the least. Here we have an NGO and a group of people who preach good governance, transparency, accountability and all the wiz bang NGO stuff. But we expect different rules should apply to them when it comes to upholding the very principles they preach. Let’s face it. The third sector (the other two being Private and Public sectors) is increasingly handling huge sums of funds and outsourced roles of what governments used to do but avoid the level of accountability that should come with such responsibility. What is happening now (despite the personal side of things if there are any) exposes the need to revisit the kind of framework we need to have in place to enforce minimum standards on the third sector. They of course will scream death if I raise this issue.
Spring Koha / June 4, 2014
Bejesus! Must be a slow day in the office if these buggers have time to spend on this parochial shit-raking. Grow up folks there are rich and ripe pickings all around you. Do what you have to, to relentlessly track down the bastards who are dragging our paradise through the mud….and spare a thought for a vvip hate-monger now doing the international medical rounds trying to rid himself from a pesky std contracted in a balmy resort in our garden of Eden.
Ivor Biggun / June 5, 2014
Oooh, tell me, is it that BMF Gandasaara of the Boru Balu Sena fame? Tell me it is, pleeeeeze! Methinks however, that he has contracted a bigger disease than he can heal with even the best medicines in the world; it’s called rabid ethno-religious fundamentalism….
Crazyoldmansl / June 4, 2014
Yes, these kinds of acts – the accounting for of expenditures in very creative ways – is widespread. I have observed this practice not only in all sectors of the economy in Sri Lanka but in other countries as well. Financial experts are consulted and finance committee meetings are held in order to decide how to account for expenditures in ways that enable them to be fitted into budgets as well as to optimize tax and other benefits.
Whether we wish to tolerate this kind of practices is upto us to decide. This is an ethical decision that has to be made and then incorporated in policies and supported by regulations and legislation if we wish to. It can be left to individual organizations and entities if we prefer it to be this way. It can be left to individuals at the level of individual expenses and claims for reimbursement relating thereto if we think this is best. I do not see any universal norms in relation to this. There may be accounting standards relating thereteto but if there are I am not aware of them – not being an accountant myself.
The issue as I see it seems to be NOT whether “Hattotuwa spent Rs 20,865 on food and alcohol for a night out with friends using foreign tax payers’ money” BUT the manner in which that expenditure was accounted for.
Was there a budget allocation for such expenditure? It is usually found under the budget heading “entertainment” or “Hosting of Guests/Visitors”. Was there a situation where there was more entertainment or hosting of guests/visitors than anticipated and less traveling so that a decision was made by the finance committee to expend balances from the traveling budget on entertainment and hosting of guests? If such a decision had been made a minute to that effect should exist for production to auditors and relevant persons though not for necessarily for public perusal. Is the author of this article unaware of such procedures?
Or am I mistaken and is the author questioning the ethics of spending “Rs 20,865 on food and alcohol for a night out with friends” and if so where do these the ethics that hold such expenditure to be unacceptable arise from? Are they the authors personal ethics or are they enshrined in some widely accepted code of ethics that the author is privy to?.
Or is it the spending of “foreign taxpayers money” on “food and alcohol for a night out with friends” the issue that transgresses some rule, regulation or law?
Those accused by the author may indeed turn out to be transgressing some rule, regulation or law that the author is aware of. They may be acting contrary to some ethical code that the author subscribes to. If we are to understand what the problem is then the author of this article must make the problem clear to us and I would like to see him do so.
Richmond / June 4, 2014
Colombo Telegraph And Groundviews Lock Horns Over Sanjana Hattotuwa’s “Restaurant Bills”
This is how another website reported the ongoing fist-fight between the two foolhardy boy editors.
My advice is simple: be careful of your locked horns; if broken or seriously damaged you two won’t be able to think critically and independently!
paul / June 6, 2014
Read: your mission is to bring rajapasas down. Disenfrachise moda sinhala buddhists. This infighting will make you lose your direction hence the plot.
Don Quixote / June 4, 2014
Two brats who wouldn’t have been tolerated anywhere but on the internet !
It is we who make the mistake of reading the crap that they write and thereby give them credibility.
Ben Hurling / June 4, 2014
Where do you read your stuff buddy?
Lake House publications or forums run by Malinda?
Ivor Biggun / June 4, 2014
I echo comments from BBS Rep and Spring Koha – grow up guys and stop quibbling like pregnant peahens. There is work to do to dislodge the rogues who have got themselves elected to run amok in Lanka and the less distractions we have amongst those of us who believe in what is right, the bloody better for all the rest of us.
I repeat – STOP this infantile quibbling. Sanjana, if you have screwed up with your expense claim, say three hail mary-s and a big mea culpa and then set about your business.
This episode smacks of classic Jaarapakse tactics – those buggers must be laughing their socks and smelly butts off at this seeming disharmony in the ranks of the ‘opposition’!
Banda / June 4, 2014
In today’s terms, Rs 20,865 Hattotuwa spent on food and alcohol is peanuts. I have seen many a NGO the big shots dine and wine in plush hotels and even shopping in latest upscale shopping malls. I am positive, none of them paid for any of those bills from their own pockets. We haven’t paid for it either. Directly or indirectly, some gullible white bugger must have paid for it. So why bother! Let our con masters screw the white arses as they did us for centuries.
Punakku recycler / June 4, 2014
This reminds me of all those arcade fighting games I used to play as a kid.
ROUND 3, FIGHT!
Sam / June 4, 2014
I never thought I’d ever agree with a ‘BBS Rep’, but what do I know? (Please see comment above from BBS Rep) ;-)
Colombo Telegraph and Groundviews are two of only a very few sane media organisations reporting on Srilanka. It really is disappointing that what seems to be a personal rivalry between two individuals has culminated in the two organisations slinging mud at each other.
We can’t bring down the Rajapakse junta if we’re not together, guys.
Dawn Dale / June 4, 2014
this is so petty – grow-up!
Eusense / June 4, 2014
It is not “so petty” for the donors who give money to work for their causes!
Upul / June 4, 2014
Dear Mr Kurukulasuriya,
When I saw the article yesterday,I felt perhaps like most readers ; here is another free-loader!
Then, I saw the response to your article elsewhere (Which CT conveniently did not refer to) and then I thought, this is just classic Sri Lankan style vendetta. And, I will explain why I feel that way.
Yesterday, only pages 2 and 3 were shown. When I saw page #1 I realized this was an old story being rehashed for some unknown purpose.
We can write about the multiples of racketeers walking around posing as academics and do-gooders. In a free society, that is their right. The public should be made aware of their shenanigans, and we can decide if we want to share in the spoils or avoid them. That is the job of a free press. In this instance, you and CT editors failed the public by your selective writings.
Eusense / June 4, 2014
This is just like Amnesty International using 70% of the Tamil diaspora contributions for “administrative” expenses.
Native Vedda / June 5, 2014
“This is just like Amnesty International using 70% of the Tamil diaspora contributions for “administrative” expenses”
Could you produce evidence of Diaspora funding AI and receipts in respect of all its expenses.
What does AI do with 30% after spending 70% on “administrative expenses”? Does it distribute rest of the surplus to its shareholders?
eusense / June 5, 2014
Why don’t you Google about Tamil diaspora funding AI. I have given links so many times!
What they do is give lip service for the terrorist supporters. Didn’t you see reports on SL just before and during the UNHRC sessions?
Babsy / June 5, 2014
As a concerned citizen I strongly believe that Sanjana should reply to CT and clear his name and demonstrate his integrity.
It’s appalling to hear that staff attached to INGOs/NGOs/NNGOs (International Non Governmental Organizations, Non Governmental Organizations, National Nongovernmental Organisations) working in the development sector could behave in such manner undermining the very work of NGOs. It can be especially harmful and have an effect on reputation, funding and donations. NGOs should show better operational efficiency and accountability to the government especially when they finger point the government. We all know that the most effective way to deal with corruption is to expose it and that’s what CT has done.
It’s just few days ago that Transparency International launched the governance report which highlighted their findings on corruption in the State sector in several fields.
Though we have focused much on public sector corruption in the last two decades, we have not even adequately initiated public debate to bring this emerging yet highly vulnerable sector within the purview of anti-corruption law. Hence, INGOs/NGOs/NNGOS must put their house in order by addressing accountability, transparency and internal governance issues before anything.
Non-transparent working culture, weak internal control system, nepotism and family hegemony are some of the traits that best characterize the composition of most NGOs especially national NGOs like Sarvodaya and Sevalanka. Although the non-profit sector mobilizes a significant proportion of aid most NGOs yet don’t have internal anti-corruption policy and mechanism to manage corruption.
No one dares question their integrity, transparency and poor governance, not even the government that has authority to check, regulate and monitor their activities. Very often government officials and the very top are
Hence, it’s high time INGOs/NGOs performance; accountability and transparency are monitored and scrutinized in order to regulate the non-profit sector due to colossal resources channeled into this sector since 1980s from international donors and charities.
Therefore, immediate steps must be taken to provide a clear space for NGOs to freely pursue their mandate. Second, it ought to clearly outline rights, responsibilities, and standards of accountability and transparency to comply with. And third, it should establish robust checks and balances in which the authorities can use legal powers to prevent and penalize unlawful activities. This could be done by an independent body supported by all stakeholders. Only when these bold challenging measures are met to reform its legal regime, then only our non-profit sector will move toward high degree of accountability and transparency.
Donor community that doles out financial support must also take responsibility in the ills that NGOs have been involved in. They hardly bother to look into internal governance issue, membership size and family hegemony while providing assistance to the NGOs/NNGOs. Change in donor policy and approach will definitely set a milestone in making the non-profit sector accountable and transparent.
K.A Sumanasekera / June 5, 2014
Ask who paid for the Hat too..
It looks too cool to be from Majestic Plaza…
faisal / June 5, 2014
“Ask who paid for the Hat too.. “
Typical Sri Lankan repartee illustrating the low-down mentality of hitting a man who is already down and struggling to get up on his feet. You may as well ask yourself the question, who paid for YOUR own trousers.
georgethebushpig / July 4, 2014
You are beginning to sound like a right royal prat with an axe to grind.
Please don’t lose focus of the big picture.
kris / July 16, 2014
This is why government is trying to bring new law to control these NGO and INGOs they are working for their own agendas instead of helping poor peoples in the SL society,
Before the war there were more than 3000 NGO in SL helping Tamil people in North and East after the war anyone one can see what they have done to the Tamil people in North and East with billions of dollars , only the project boards are there all the money they used for terrorism in SL