Painstaking efforts by the all-powerful Executive Director of the Center for Policy Alternatives (CPA) Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu have failed to cover up the organization’s white collar crimes, Colombo Telegraph can reveal today.
On October 10, 2014, Colombo Telegraph exposed corruption related to CPA – billing for un-held workshops, double billing 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 (perhaps even submitting same bills to multiple donors), and hoodwinking donors by filing expenses under safe cost columns.
The particular Exposé was related to cheating two donors; the European Union (EU) and the United Nations’ Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)
Colombo Telegraph had continuously raised the issue with the CPA related to serious allegations – non compliances with standard procedures, fraudulent transactions and unethical practices committed – since 8th of June, 2014, giving the organization every opportunity to clarify and clear its name if indeed it had done no wrong. Unfortunately the CPA indulged in time-wasting tactics totally at odds with the organization’s rhetoric on transparency and accountability. The CPA never offered a comprehensive response.
Instead of responding to us, on December 13, 2014 the CPA denied any wrongdoing, supporting the claim by publishing an Executive Summary of a ‘forensic’ report by a company called Corporate Doctors (Pvt) Ltd,
The report itself is said to be 22 pages long. The compilers of the report offer the following disclaimer: “the executive summary is prepared based on the detailed report attached in Annexure 1 with a view of providing an overview of the outcome of the engagement to the reader. Therefore in case of any ambiguity or misunderstanding noted in the executive summary, the full version of the report given in Annexure 1 should be referred which should be taken as final.”
Colombo Telegraph urged the CPA to publish the full report since the executive summary published hardly cleared the CPA given information held by us and shared with the CPA. We did so since the published document itself essentially urges readers to refer to the full report if further clarification was required.
Instead of responding to our request the CPA has deleted its post form CPA’s official Facebook page. We copied the deleted post prior to the deletion. (Click here to see the deleted posts).
The Executive Summary of their findings can be read here.
Now let’s examine the conclusions of the so called forensic auditors.
Based on the available information and documents considred[sic] in above audit procedures applicable to the period covered in the audit scope, we could confirm that:
1. We have not found any duplicate payments made by CPA relating to the cocktail party held in Galle Face Hotel (GFH). CPA has paid only once against an “Accounst [sic] Statement” issued by Galle Face Hotel in the name of Namal Perera of CPA. The fate of the bills exhibited in the website were not known but we did not find any proof of using any of them for making the payment to GFH or in claiming this expense from the Donor European Union(EU). This payment had been claimed only from one Donor i.e. EU. Therefore we conclude that duplicate payments not made to vendor and this payment was claimed only one time from EU.
If “the fate of the bills exhibited in the website were not known but we (the auditor) did not find any proof of using any of them for making the payment to GFH or in claiming this expense from the Donor European Union (EU)”, did they contact the Galle Face Hotel to find out the authenticity of the bills published by the CT?
“CPA has paid only once against an “Accounst [sic] Statement” issued by Galle Face Hotel in the name of NamalPerera of CPA .” We have never said the CPA paid several times to Galle Face Hotel. Our question was, ‘Why did the CPA obtain different bills from Galle Face Hotel instead of submitting the original bill?’ What has Namal Perera had to do with this particular project? He had no engagement whatsoever with this project. He worked under Sanjana Hattotuwa in a project called “voice of reconciliation” – a multi million Canadian dollar project funded by “The Institute for Media, Policy and Civil Society” (IMPACS), where various corruptions took place. The project funded and initiated the website Groundviews. CPA was about to go bankrupt due to Hattotuwa’s handling of the funds. Did this auditor interview Namal Perera? Have they checked the financial reports submitted to the IMPACS to find out if indeed there was double billing?
There is another question that went unanswered. The original bill issued by the GF Hotel says it is for 60 people (BQT Cocktail reception) The bill under Namal Perera’s name says; ““BQT – National Meeting Dinner for 100 people”. Why is that?
(Click here for the original bill which says for 60 people part one – part two , click here for the second bill and third bill and click here for the fourth bill which says “BQT – National Meeting Dinner for 100 people”).
2. According to different invoices issued by GFH as quoted by CT website, there had been a liquor related amount of Rs.66,547/50 included in the total bill of Rs. 152,047/50 paid to GFH. We are unable to confirm whether CPA produced the Account statement or any of the bills issued by GFH published in CPW for claiming reimbursement as we have not inspected any acknowledged copies of claim documents. However, we have inspected the report issued by EU auditors Moore & stephens (Chartered Accountants) on the said project, who have not given any adverse comments about not producing any claim documents. Further, we did not find any specific prohibition on claiming “liquor related” expenses under the “eligible costs” described in article 14 of the EU contract conditions. Therefore, we can not conclude that CPA has cheated the donors by submitting bills with incorrect descriptions.
Of course you cannot find out those original bills in the CPA accounts, because they have not submitted original bills to the donors. How can EU auditors raise those issues, since they could not have been aware of alcohol consumption with CPA submitting camouflaged duplicated bills? Obviously these “forensic doctors” have no knowledge about EU guidelines. Every time EU funded projects, they conduct special training to project coordinators and the accountants in beneficiary organizations. Did this auditors question the CPA accountant or EU to find out whether it is in line with EU policies or not to use EU money for the purchase of alcohol? Claiming for alcohol is not possible and this is why the CPA managed to obtain camouflaged bills hiding the actual spending.
3. Invoice from Havelock Bungalow matches very closely with the activities of CPA project and the same amount paid to this vendor by an employee of CPA had been reimbursed by CPA as a cost of dinner and the full amount claimed from EU. The invoice published in CTW had many liquor items and was not found in CPA records. Since the contract conditions did not prohibit claiming liquor bills we conclude that there was no fraudulent manipulation in claiming them from the donor.
Of course the auditors cannot trace the original bill since the CPA submitted camouflaged duplicated bills. Did the auditors request the relevant information from Havelock Bungalow to find out whether the Bill published by the CT is authentic or not? Auditors must name the “employee who claimed the bill. They should also explain under what line item the CPA paid back the said amount? No donor listed prohibited items in the main contract as we commented above they train the beneficiaries and explain what to do and what should not.
4. Two different projects on “Public Service Media” were running paralally during this period with EU and UNESCO and some activities had been carried out jointly. But the same expense had not been claimed from both donors.
If the CPA had done it, they should have mentioned and reported to the donors, but none of the CPA’s quarterly reports mentioned this fact! Can the auditor or the CPA disclose the activities carried out jointly?
5. Based on project updates reviewed, both projects had been completed and the finacials of CPA published the finance details in line with the standard disclosure requirements.
The auditor came to this conclusion based on “project updates”. The issue is those project update reports are not correct and they were misleading and blatant lies. Is camouflaging original bills a standard practice?
6. According to project updates, four panel experts had been paid Rs 123,000 (not Rs. 100,000 as published in CTW) based on the budget agreed in the proposal. Based on project updates inspected by us, we found all 4 panel experts got them selves involved in the relevant project.
According to the finance and project reports the amount allocated was 4,500 Euros. Did the Auditors talk to the working group? Are there any minutes to establish the truth or otherwise of the allegation that they never met as a group or never even in a group email communication?
7. Based on the project update reports, the 2 projects had been successfully completed.
The auditor came to this conclusion based on “project update reports”. The issue is those project update reports are not correct and they were misleading and blatant lies.
While we wait for the CPA to publish the so called forensic report in full, Colombo Telegraph can give you few minor examples of the way CPA had cheated the donors.
*. The quarterly report for the period Sep-November 2006, submitted to EU – Under the subheading “One-day training seminar for journalists” says; “4th September Kalmune, Zahira Collage auditorium for 31 Muslim journalists. Trainers: Uvindu Kurukulasuriya/ Athula Vithanage from CPA” . This is a blatant lie. The fact is Uvindu Kurukulasuriya was asked to deliver a 20 minutes lecture on “Public Service Media” at the venue of a Muslim media organization’s function that day. Uvindu, Athula Vithanage, Poddala Jayantha and a member a Muslim media organization call Munavar travelled form Colombo. Uvindu delivered the 20mins lecture and Munavar translated it into Tamil language! It was not a one day workshop on Public Service Broadcasting. ( Click here and here for the report )
*. The first quarterly report – March-May 2006 says that Sunanda Deshapriya was appointed as the Project Coordinator. This was also a lie. Sunanda was the Head of the Media Unit. He was a full time paid employee. His salary was paid from co-funding. (Click here to learn about co-funding.) According to the project proposal and the CPA financial reports, Sunanda’s fee was Euro 5,400. Not a single cent was given to Sunanda, but CPA said to the EU that the sum was paid. On or around March 20th 2007 Sunanda’s money was withdrawn from the EU/CPA project account. ( Click here, here and here to read Euro 99,497.16 budget )
*. Another Gall face Hotell bill – the original bill (number 0996), signed by Sunanda Deshapriya says it was a “half day seminar”. The camouflaged bill for the same date and for the same amount says; “ BQT- Full day seminar’!! ( Click here for the original bill and click here for the camouflaged bill)
Colombo telegraph is in a position to provide more hard evidence to prove how the CPA has been cheating donors in this particular project as well as other projects implemented by the CPA. We urge the CPA to publish the full report of this investigation respecting “transparency and good governance” and answer our simple questions we posed to the CPA last June.
Colombo Telegraph first asked the CPA to respond to certain questions based on our investigations on 8th of June, 2014. The CPA, after exchanging a few emails finally said: “We consider further communication with you futile and reiterate our position that these allegations are clearly mala fide’.”
We responded as follows:
“It is of course your prerogative to communicate or refuse to do so, but there are troubling questions that remain.
“Can you tell us which of our allegations are mala fide?
“Can you tell us whether the CPA and the International Federation of Journalists together have submitted proposals to UNESCO and EU to do a “Public Service Broadcasting” campaign/training or not?
“If “yes” can you tell us what workshops were, for whom and where they were held?
How many workshops were held using UNESCO funding and how many workshops under EU funding?
“Since both EU and UNESCO funded workshops and certain activities, can tell us how much monies were given by both funders?
“Contrary to your claim that the “CPA paid the Galle Face Hotel liquor bill”, Sasha Ekanayake (the Unit coordinator at that time) said CPA submitted a bill to EU as drinks and food “Since (we) can’t charge liquor, the CPA submitted a different bill to CPA”. This means the CPA got a different bill from Galle Face Hotel instead of submitting the original bill (a copy of which I sent to you). Would you agree?
“As we said before it’s not our duty to provide you documents. As you have implied in your last email, you have access to organization’s document so please check them.
“But don’t assume that we don’t have documents, we have all narrative reports which CPA submitted to the donors or a file of original bills, which the CPA did not submit to the donors.
“Just so you know, all documents are authentic and we can prove this if necessary.”
These are questions and comments that are based on damning documentary evidence in the possession of the Colombo Telegraph. The Colombo Telegraph finds it appalling that a strong advocate of checks and balances, accountability and transparency such as the CPA remains silent on the allegations.
Apart from above Colombo Telegraph can today reveal that Dr Saravanamuttu who was the paid supervisor, (according to the project documents his fee was 6,000 Euros for 20days) he was told by a whistleblower what was happening with regard to this project at that time it was happening. He asked the whistleblower to provide “hard evidence”. The whistleblower met him 6 years ago and provided him hard evidence. Although he agreed to take an action, but up to now he has failed to do so.