A Colombo Telegraph investigation has revealed that, in 2009, that is 7 years before Dr. Muttkrishana Saravananthan’s allegations leveled at the Colombo think tank and NGO the International Centre for Ethnic Studies (ICES), concerning financial improprieties, the same Canadian research funder, IDCR, had in an internal review come to similar conclusions as Saravananthan.
In a May, 2009 report, entitled, “ Evaluation of Peace, Conflict and Development (PCD) Research Support in Countries and Regions affected by Violent Conflict.” Commissioned by IDRC, Dr. Mark Hoffman, an independent reviewer of the Brussles based consultancy “channel research,” who is now with the London School of Economics, had this to say about two ICES research projects funded by IDRC. Noting that, there were “very favorable comments in the project planning documents regarding ICES as the partner institution,” Hoffman goes on to note, what he found:
“ The reality seems to have been otherwise… It transpired that institutionally it lacked tight administrative and financial management processes. Its capacity for financial management was deemed by PCD/IDRC staff to be ‘surprisingly weak given the amount of funding it was receiving and controlling’. Senior researchers on the two projects noted that the institute would regularly use funds from one project to cover costs on another. Some of these problems were known to PCD/IDRC as it sent in a financial controler to provide assistance and staff training in the area of financial control. It is clear that as a result of the revelations, ICES’s reputation within Sri Lanka has been tarnished and senior staff are slowly disengaging from it, which over the medium term may undermine its research credentials. While most of the field research on the post-tsunami project had been completed before these problems could adversely affect the research, it did encounter difficulties in making timely payments to some researchers because of the inadequacies in ICES’s financial management practices.” (p.28-9, Hoffman Report).
While IDRC own internal review – and this document is part of IDRC’s public web archive – had this to say about ICES more than 7 years ago, that Canadian institution still provided funding to the ICES for a Growth and Economic Opportunities for Women (GrOW) program project, which Dr. Sarvananthan has now alleged was rife with financial improprieties.
Further, Colombo Telegraph has learned that Dr. Navsharan Singh, was an authorizing IDRC official in both programs, spanning a period of 6 years.
The question that needs to be asked in the public interest is this: “If IDRC, as it did, knew from internal evaluation, that ICES’ financial practices were suspect, why did it fund fresh projects at ICES, with out rigorous financial oversight? These are questions raised by Colombo Telegraph on behalf of Citizens of Canada and Sri Lanka.