COPE reveals in an observation that land and properties owned by the Janatha Estate Development Board (JEDB) that comes under the State Enterprise Resources Development Ministry and located in the heart of Colombo city, have been valued at very low rates and given on long-term lease during the previous regime.
The 6,250 sq. ft. building bearing no. 175 at Vauxhall Street has been given to Asoka Glass Company on a 35 year lease at the rate of Rs. 10.42 per sq. ft, or Rs. 65,137.50 per annum. Also, 4,586 sq. ft. of the same building has been given to Thilona Lanka on a 30 year lease at an annual Rs. 105,000 lease. Kandy Tyre House has received 5,322 sq. ft. of the building for 30 years for Rs. 159,660, or at Rs. 30 per sq. ft. per year.
At the same time, Mr. Paint Lanka occupies 14,592 sq ft. at Rs. 1.02 per sq. ft. and 1,07 sq. ft. at Rs. 178.40 respectively. Meanwhile, 14,500 sq. ft. of no. 32 at Darley Road has been given to Man Care Centre for Rs. 19.25 per sq. ft. per annum. From the same building, New Zealand College received 28,921 sq. ft. for Rs. 13.49 per annum, while Higher Technical Institute given 11,500 sq. ft. for two years at the rate of Rs. 60 per sq. ft. For Lakeside Property Development, a little over one acre from the same property has been leased out for 53 years at Rs. 93,497 per perch, and only Rs. 15,520,512 obtained, although the due amount was Rs. 921,693,426.
COPE has instructed the JEDB to the immediate suspend the leasing of the Vauxhall Street property, valuate it anew in accordance with the prevailing market prices to lease it at a suitable rate. Chairman of COPE Sunil Handunnetti said they were yet to get a response three months after a request was made to the JEDB to provide details of the properties given on lease and the names of the officials who approved the same. When contacted, ministry secretary Ravindra Hewawitharana said they were studying the matter.
Discussions will be held with the persons who have obtained the leases in order to discuss an appropriate rate, he said. Those who refuse will be prosecuted, he added.