Controversial Secretary to the Ministry of Parliamentary Reforms and Mass Media Nimal Bopage is facing a fresh crisis over his alleged involvement in a corruption case amounting to Rs. 100 million, with both the COPE and the FCID receiving fresh complaints requesting them to carry out investigations against Bopage.
Based on the documents received by the Colombo Telegraph, Bopage was found guilty by COPE for multiple charges of corruption when he was the Chairman of the National Human Resource Development Council (NHRDC) during former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s regime.
However, soon after Rajapaksa’s fall in January last year, a frantic Bopage in his attempt to save himself and avoid arrest, switched camps and joined the Yahapalanaya regime following the change of governments, sources close to former Minister Dullas Alahapperuma under whose purview NHRDC fell told the Colombo Telegraph.
These corruption charges against Bopage had been investigated at length by COPE of the previous Parliament and had referred the matter to the Attorney General on November 18, 2014 for necessary actions. The Attorney General too had found sufficient evidence to indict Bopage on the Rs. 100 million worth corruption charges. Subsequently, on the advice of the Attorney General, the NHRDC lodged a complaint with the Narahenpita Police on March 10, 2016 in an effort to initiate a legal case against Bopage, but in a strange turn of events, Bopage was appointed to the powerful position of Secretary to the Ministry of Parliamentary Reforms and Mass Media by President Maithripala Sirisena two months later.
All investigations by COPE on these corruption charges against Bopage have been supported by the Auditor General whose reports too have highlighted Bopage’s wrongdoings when he was heading NHRDC. It is learnt that Bopage at no point cooperated with any of these investigations against him.
According to the COPE report to the AG, even the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption had commenced investigations against Bopage, but they did not make any headway in the investigations as they could not contact Bopage. But, a few months later, Bopage appeared from nowhere to take up the position of Secretary to Ministry of Parliamentary Reforms and Mass Media with the blessings of Sirisena, who incidentally came to power promising to bring in good governance and put an end to corruption, and nepotism.
Multiple projects that Bopage had commenced as the Chairman of NHRDC has either failed or were non-starters, COPE reportedly told the Attorney General. Approximately Rs. 5 million has been channeled for media advertisements alone through a private company of which the postal address was the same as that of Bopage’s private residence.
Some of the allegations mentioned in the COPE report to the AG are as follows:
– When the Committee observed that out of the total recurrent expenditure of Rs. 30,247,869 only a sum of Rs. 19,182,148 had been spent on the human resources development which is the primary objective of the council, while a sum of Rs. 9,939,546 or 52% had been spent on the electronic and print media publicity, the CAO/AO (representing officer of NHRDC) admitted their shortcomings and stated that the matter had been rectified in the following year.
– Strengthening of the students who fail in all subjects of GCE (O/L) examinations – It was observed by the committee that an amount of Rs. 12,979,803 had been ‘spent’ on this project although there is no record to show that such a project took place.
– Rs. 2,218,153 has been spent on another failed or non-existing project called “From Unemployment to Employment.”
– Newspaper advertisements had been published on a singing competition and Rs. 3,082,453 had been spent but no such event had taken place.
– The committee observed that the council had entered into a memorandum of understanding with a private company for the preparation and maintenance of a database of the unemployed in Sri Lanka and questioned as to why that task was given to a private company. The CAO said that it had been done without obtaining the approval of the Board of Directors of the Council during the period of former Chairman (Bopage).
– The committee had also highlighted how instead of handing over the advertisements directly to the electronic and print media for advertising purposes, a sum of Rs. 4,937,720 had been paid to private company without following the procurement guidelines. Incidentally the address of the private company is the same as the private residence of Bopage’s.
Apart from the large scale corruption charges facing Bopage during his tenure as Chairman of the NHRDC, Bopage is also accused of being involved various other cases of corruption, and abuse of power. He was also severely criticized for misusing vehicles and other resources when he previously held senior administrative positions. When Piyasena Gamage last year assumed duties as the Minister of Skills Development and Vocational Training, he immediately removed Bopage from the position as the Chairman of the Vocational Training Authority due to Bopage’s questionable past.