M&R Governance; MR’Governance & Diesel Scam

We watch helplessly

Dr Sarath Obeysekera (Island Opinion Page)

This may be the last opinion I may write about the state of affairs in the country.

I just watched an episode of a series in Netflix about Paolo Escobar, who was heading a drug cartel in Columbia .He killed the editor of a leading Columbian newspaper which has been critical of the illegal activities and assassinations carried out by the drug cartel and the government, for inaction. The series also show how corrupted the whole system and the country were at that time.

We know that a Chief Editor of a leading paper in Sri Lanka, who was critical of leaders, article_imagehas been killed in cold blood and no action has been taken against the culprits. We also see how the national wealth has been robbed and government and judiciary is unable to take control.

We also see that the government has miserably failed to suppress corruption by punishing the culprits and eradicate corruption and crime in the country.

Investments are not taking off due to fear of some government officers against CIABOC or BC haunting them for any decisions they make.

I cited a clear example of a Ship Yard in Galle harbour, where a Cabinet Committee has clearly instructed the Secretary to the ministry of ports allow us to proceed, but the officers of the Ports Authority fear to take a decision, due to fear of undue influence from the political leaders above them.

We are in the dusk of our life span, and I cannot see any light of hopes in the horizon

What keeps ringing is the word “Yahapalanaya”, misdeeds of “Mara-Palanaya” and nothing more.

Only solace so far is that I do not have to S face the fate of the politicians and journalists during Paolo Escobar’s time, because Yahapalanaya is somewhat functioning in some areas!  

All systems go for the great diesel scam

By Dr Tilak Siyambalapitiya

All ingredients and players are now in place, to get Sri Lanka to spend Rs 200 billion extra (yes it is in billions, not in millions) to produce eletricity while giving undisclosed profits to various diesel power companies. Dr Kumar David, a professor of electrical engineering, estimates that the loss to the country would be Rs 200 billion between now and 2025, owing to cancellation or suspension, whatever one may call it, of the two power plants in Sampur. Not one but two power plants, almost starting construction, were cancelled first by the President and then by the Prime Minister earlier this year.

This is the fourth cycle of power plant cancellation/suspension, blackouts, the struggle by politicians to award contracts to diesel power plants, and finally spending billions of rupees for diesel. The customer (that means you) will finally pay for it. The previous successful attempts by Prime Ministers and Presidents to cancel power plants that were to produce lower cost electricity and then award contracts for diesel power plants were in 1992, 1997 and 2002. All such attempts were extremely successful, dozens of contracts were given to build diesel power plants, and the electricity customer was asked to pay. And you paid! If you are not sure, look at your electricity bill of around 2013, 2014, to see a diesel bill in it, and then look at your present bill.

With the President and the Prime Minister “cancelling” the two Sampur power plants, now the stage is fully set for the great diesel scam, for the 4th time in recent history. The scam will be worth Rs 200 billion extra to be paid by electricity customers for diesel fuel and diesel power plant contracts.

In comparison, the Auditor General told COPE, that he estimates the recent so-called bond scam has caused a loss of (a) Rs 688 million on 27 Feb 2015 and (b) Rs 784 million on 26 March 2016. Total = Rs 1.5 billion.So all this noise and the near break-up of the Government was in the attempt to cover-up a potential loss of Rs 1.5 billion. It is only a potential loss, not even an actual loss, according to the Auditor General.

So, which COPE committee will now investigate Rs 200 billion actual loss coming-up in electricity production? The beauty is that the Rs 200 billion can be accurately calculated, and each one of us will be asked to pay for it through our electricity bills, starting now, until 2025.So, Rs 200 billion more for electricity is not a potential loss; it is a real loss, and mind you, to paid in dollars for diesel.

There is ample evidence on who issued orders to stop building the power plants in Sampur, and who is pushing CEB to immediately advertise to buy diesel power plants. The most recent was a news item (Sunday Times 30th October 2016), which says how Secretary, Ministry of Power and Renewable Energy, is pulling up CEB for not quickly buying two diesel power plants. So the game has begun in grand style, and this time it is official, not decided behind a smoke screen, as done in the run up to previous efforts to ruin the power sector, in 1992, 1997 and 2002. !!!

Four weeks earlier, in September, the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) approved only diesel power plants to be built between 2017-2020, and PUC is vigorously pursuing the idea, reminding CEB almost every week, to quickly build diesel power plants. The approval by PUC categorically said no other power plants should be built. Shut up and build diesel, is the message from the Commission, loud and clear. That’s the watchdog of electricity customer rights speaking!

Central Bank’s potential loss is peanuts when compared with power sector’s real loss of Rs 200 billion. And you electricity customers will pay that, starting next year ! It is real, not imaginary.For 2015 and 2016, both LECO and CEB will report small profits, exactly as a publicly-owned utility should do. No burden on the tax payer, no exorbitant profits, and the product (electricity) delivered at a regionally competitive price, though further reductions in costs are possible and improvement of reliability of supply is a must. International oil and coal prices are now stagnant. So, if your electricity bills are increased next year or thereafter, or if CEB and LECO report losses from 2017, you now know who is responsible. Read this article again, and you can name the individuals, ad-hoc committees and official Commissions who did the ground work and then keep vigorously promoting thisgreat, great diesel scam of the decade!!!.