Suren Batagoda reveals all about coal mafia (video)
Interested parties are concerned by recent media reports that the government incurred a Rs. four billion loss in the purchase of coal by the Power and Renewable Energy Ministry. It was extensively discussed by the media, anti-corruption groups and politicians. The ministry and Lanka Coal Company traded accusations. It continued until the most recent incident, the resignation of CEB chairman Anura Wijepala. At all times, the key figure was ministry secretary Dr. Suren Batagoda.
There are accusations and explanations, and since we consider it the duty of the media to report both sides, we had a discussion with Dr. Batagoda about this mafia.
 
Lanka Coal Company made a serious allegation after its director board was dissolved in view of the recommendations and conclusions in a report submitted by the auditor general on 30 December 2016 to the energy supervisory committee of parliament. It insisted the ministry was to be blamed for a Rs. four billion loss in the purchase of coal. Written evidence has been placed before the media. This issue, that remains unresolved since 2006, haunted the entire country and even leveled serious accusations against the present regime too.
 
Up to the fifth purchase in 2014, the method of coal purchases has been a failure. It worsened with the sixth procurement.  On the cabinet’s instructions on 04 September, 2014, Lanka Coal started the process to select two suppliers to supply 2,250,000 mt of coal in a four year period. The main challenge was to eliminate the irregularities that existed in the previous purchases. However, that could not be overcome and similar weaknesses existed in the sixth purchase too, with Lanka Coal not rectifying them.
 
 
“Certain of Maithri’s deals are without an agreement”
“I’m accused only, I’m not asked why”
 
Six suppliers – Nobel Resources, Suek AG, Trafigura PTE, Adani Global, Swiss Singapore and Liberty Commodities – were chosen. From them, the technical evaluation committee selected the lowest bidder, Swiss Singapore. According to the secretary, the technical committee, tender board, cabinet, prime minister and the president have all approved the deal. Dr. Batagoda says the coal purchase tender, after six years, has now been brought under a proper procedure.
 
 
After the coal purchase fiasco, accusations were leveled against the secretary over the purchase of electricity in emergency situations too. Batagoda says the ministry has made that process methodical, but the media and the others have not conveyed the correct message to the public in that regard. He says the changing hands of state, public owned property among friends at the Power and Renewable Energy Ministry has become a thing of the past.
 
“Know the truth through the RTI act and speak”
“I ended the monopoly while Maithri tried to protect it”
 
 
According to him, Lanka Coal had acted irresponsibly. For certain purchases, it did not have an agreement at least. Authorities can take legal action in such situations. Especially in the controversy surrounding the coal purchases, have the responsible officials acted in an irresponsible manner? If the major foreign companies have committed fraud, how did local authorities react?
 
Dr. Batagoda explained thus:
 
 
“Lanka Coal has not made a single payment properly”
“Is halting theft wrong?”
In the meantime, the secretary says Lanka Coal has not made a single payment properly, and all were paid in excess.
 
 
Since the right to information act is in force, anyone can have the right to obtain correct information, he said, adding that this applies to the Power and Renewable Energy Ministry too.
 
He questioned as to whether it was reasonable to give wrong information to society even as there are provisions to obtain the correct information.
 
 
(Ashika Brahmana/Nishantha Priyadarshana)
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