Certain prominent Colombo-based ‘human rights professionals’ are making merry, wining and dining in upmarket restaurants, hoodwinking donors by filing expenses under ‘safe’ cost columns, Colombo Telegraph learns.
Evidence has surfaced that Sanjana Hattotuwa, an employee of the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) and the Editor of CPA-funded website Groundviews, has asked the coordinator of CPA’s Media Unit to put down expenses incurred at the Gallery Cafe of Paradise Road Galleries as ‘travel expenses’. Colombo Telegraph learns that Hattotuwa had requested for a cash payment on this occasion. Gallery Cafe is described as “one of Colombo’s most consistently popular restaurants offering international fusion cuisine and few local favourites.”
Incidentally, Hattotuwa was recently removed from the CPA senior staff after verbally abusing a female co-worker.
Documents currently held by Colombo Telegraph indicates that Hattotuwa spent Rs 20,865 on food and alcohol for a night out with friends.
The breakdown of the bill is as follows: Olive Oil Calamari -2- Rs 950.00, Baked Crab – 485.00, Indian Butter Chicken -645.00, Black Pork Curry – 2,- 1,170.00, Fettucine W Lobster – 985.00, Saffron Risotto -925.00, Grilled Lemon Sole – 645.00, Charoon Bushmans Gully – 2,080.00, Shiraz Bushmans Gully – 2,080.00, Feta Olive Ravioli – 535.00, Ginger Ice Cream – 285.00 and Fruit Salad – 235.00. Caiprinha 2 – 1,290.00, Shiraz, Bushmans (Glass) – 2,600.00, Margarita 4 – 2,200.00, Bacadi 2 – 1,200.00, Benson &Hedges Lights – 310.00, Evian (100ML) – 850.00, Choice of Tea – 135.00, Coffee – 160.00, CR Brulee – 325.00, Jaggery Ice Cream – 255.00, Sweet Pumpkin Soup – 265.00, Sri Lankan Fish Head Soup – 255.00.
When asked whether he had on any occasion attempted to secure or had secured money from the CPA in order to defray costs incurred personally, i.e. to pay for goods and/or services unrelated to projects, and whether he had prevailed upon any CPA official to mark expenses under project line items that are not relevant to what was purchased, and whether, in his opinion, it is standard practice in the CPA or in other NGOs he is working 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 replied as follows:
“I have no idea what you are referring to. Suggest you directly contact and question CPA’s Executive Director in this regard, CC’d to this email.”
Colombo Telegraph then put the question to the Executive Director of CPA Dr Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu in the following manner:
“Are you aware of any transgression of this kind perpetrated by Hattotuwa? 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?”
“The answer to both your questions is no,” Saravanamuttu responded.
When provided the details of the said bill, Hattotuwa again said; “I can only keep reiterating what I have noted clearly before. I do not know what or to whom you are referring to. The person to direct any inquiries in this regard, the Executive Director of CPA, is CC’d to this email.”
However an investigation by Colombo Telegraph has revealed that details provided by the whistleblower are true, and multiple sources confirmed that they are aware of this particular dinner and wine bill incident. The Unit Coordinator has confirmed that Hattotuwa had asked him to put the amount down as travelling and pays him back.
“This was not the only occasion Sanjana wanted me to do that, he was a real pain, I had to balance everything, I was new to the NGO field then” the Unit Coordinator said.
A rural human rights activist and CPA supporter, Gunasena Lukuge last night said that he was shocked by the “lavish” spending, which he said proved that NGOs were failing to apply “basic financial controls”.
“They use aid monies them to fund a glamorous lifestyle way beyond the reach of most of average citizens,” he said.