Sri Lanka once known as the Granary of the East is yet again betraying its farmers with the latest allegations of irregularities tainting the Yahapalana government’s Rs 10 billion urea fertilizer deal, with the initial Rs 3.5 billion tender being pressurized to be awarded to a errant bidder, by the highest echelons of the so-called Yahapalana Administration.
Famous English sea captain in the service of the British East India Company – Robert Knox is attributed the axiom that the “farmer is fit enough to be king (Raja) once you wash off his mud”, but the very minister from heartland of paddy – Rajarata, is said to be at the heart of these irregularities in connivance with his close buddy at the helm of the Ceylon Fertilizer Company, sources at the Ministry of Agriculture confirmed.
Colombo Telegraph has in its possession a letter issued by no less than Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, B. Wijeyaratne imploring the Chairman of Ceylon Fertilizer Corporation- Ruchith Roshana Waduge (a close confidante of Agriculture Minister and SLFP General Secretary Duminda Dissanayake) to terminate this tainted deal by letter dated 24 November, 2017.
However sources at the Ministry informed Colombo Telegraph that instead of the initial bidder- JAT Agro (Pvt) Ltd, a bogus company- Masters (Pvt) Ltd, of which the son of the MD of the initial company is a Director; is to be awarded the latest tender, most likely day after tomorrow (8 December 2017).
In addition Hasanjith Kuruppuarachchi, who is said to be a close friend CCF Chairman Ruchith Roshana Waduge, is a Director of both companies in question, establishing the nexus in this fraudulent collusion.
As stated in the letter, due to grave irregularities in the tender for the first consignment of urea amounting to over Rs 3.5 billion (out of the total Rs 10 billion fertilizer to be supplied to Sri Lanka), the first tender was terminated on 28 November, Colombo Telegraph learns.
Although the pre-qualification criteria required the bidder to have a minimum of 2 years prior experience in the fertilizer business, surprisingly, JAT Agro, a company without any experience in the business, was pre-qualified bidder selected.
Furthermore Ministry sources said that although specifications stipulated for the Urea consignment required was ‘B1’ the consignment ordered did not meet the criteria and as such was unsuitable for the purpose. In addition it is learned that the Agriculture Ministry had probed into the analysis certificate submitted by JAT Holdings and found out it to be fake.
“Further surprising is the fact that the supplier – Mepet of UAE, had never ever supplied fertilizer to Sri Lanka,” a source at the Ministry of Agriculture said.
“In addition although the purchase order stipulates that South Africa is the country of the origin for the consignment, now both the bidder and supplier want this changed to China, which is a clear breach of tender specifications,” a source said.
Due to all these irregularities, the first tender in question was terminated last November 28 and the Ministry called for fresh tenders the right next day, which was scheduled to close on December 5. (The first tender was closed on or around November 08 and the tender was awarded to JAT Agro on November 20)
“However it is very surprising as to why such a vital tender (i.e. first calling of tender) bringing fertilizer for the whole country, was open only for seven days going against internationally recognized tender practices and more confusing as to why even the second tender too is only open for seven days.”
Sources say that the price quoted is USD 328 per metric tonne for 78,000 metric tonnes; and that persons involved in this deal are allegedly getting close to Rs 200 million.
Furthermore, although the Ministry requires the full stock to be handed over to the CCF by December 20, unless the consignments have already been shipped, there is absolutely no chance of the bidder meeting the deadline, sources added.
“So a vital question arises as to whether the ships carrying fertilizer already left for Sri Lanka even before December 5- the date of award of the tender and whether Masters (Pvt) Ltd belonging to the son of the owner of the initially rejected company will get the deal!” another source at the Ministry of Agriculture said.
Sources also confirmed that the Minister in question had threatened Agriculture Ministry Secretary B Wijeyarathne, who had vehemently opposed the move saying that if this tainted tender goes through, all officials involved would end up at the FCID; that he would even sack his Secretary and go ahead with the tender.
Colombo Telegraph also learns that several trade union activists will report the matter to President Maithripala Sirisena within the next few days.
“In fact since this issue would adversely affect paddy cultivation just as the bond scam boomeranged on the UNP, and may even bring the whole government down!” a source said.
Colombo Telegraph has been unable to reach Minister Duminda Dissanayake for comment.