Former Civil Aviation Minister Priyankara Jayaratne has exploited Sri Lankan Airlines funds worth over Rs. 3 million as fuel reimbursements, vehicle maintenance expenses and food expenses.
The BOI inquiry into the financial misappropriations of the national carrier has revealed that former Minister Jayaratne had obtained unauthorized fuel-bill reimbursements during the period of April 2011 – November 2014, by SLA. A monthly payment close to Rs. 75,000 had been made to P Rasaiah as fuel bill reimbursements of Jayarathne, to Lanka Filling Station located in Irattakulam, Madampe amounting to a total of Rs. 2,853,935.04.
During the inquiry it has been revealed that the reimbursement had been sought through letters to SLA without any invoices or vehicle numbers. The letters had been endorsed by officials attached to the Civil Aviation Ministry including Jinadasa Rajapaksa who served as the Media Secretary and Dhammika Attygalle who was an advisor and the Private Secretary DMJ Dissanayake.
The inquiry report notes although the letters contain references to petrol order numbers no such orders had been received by the SLA and no official documents or minutes linking these payments to an official channel of the Ministry exist. Moreover, neither has the Ministry sought any clarifications into whether the payments were in respect of actual fuel reimbursements or whether it was for the Minister or any other individual.
It has come to light, that the fuel reimbursements for December 2014 and January had been received by the SLA on Jan 21 but without an approval from the former CEO Kapila Chandrasena – an obvious indication of his awareness of the illegality of the payment since he was no longer able to cover it up due to regime change. However, it had earlier been approved by the Chairman who had admitted to the BOI inquiry team that the payments were illegal but he approved them since he could not decline the line Minister’s request.
Meanwhile it has also been revealed that a vehicle bearing the registration number WPEA-303 which was the alternative car used by the CEO of the SLC and for the transportation of special guests had been released by the institution for the use of former Minister Jayaratne, upon the verbal directives of former SLA Chairman Nishantha Wickramasighe.
The maintenance cost of this vehicle had been approximately Rs. 273,759.90 and Wickramsinghe has admitted that releasing the vehicle to the former Minister was illegal but had given the same excuse – he didn’t decline the request since it came from the line Minister. The BOI has also noted that no prior approval was obtained for the release of this vehicle from the Ministry of Finance.
BoI also noted that the Minister has obtained 330,000 worth food from Sri Lankan Airlines for his May Day event.
“We also see a series of invoices for outdoor functions which are of a political nature namely the service at Minister’s house etc. which are not connected to the lawful functions of SLA.” the BoI said in the report.