Chairman of the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCSL) Dr. Jayatissa de Costa, yesterday alleged that internal auditing was almost non-existent at the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) though it remained one of the state enterprises under fire for waste, corruption and irregularities.
Asked whether the PUCSL was taking measures to tighten internal audit mechanism in the wake of persistent allegations of mismanagement, Dr. Costa revealed that there were only six internal auditors, in spite of the CEB having 18,000 employees.
Had there been a proper internal audit the CEB wouldn’t have been in such a financial mess, Dr. Costa said, alleging that the institution was being controlled by what he called a powerful Mafia bent on making personal profit at the country’s expense. The bottom line was that those at the helm of vital operations weren’t accountable to anyone, the official said, underscoring the urgent need to subject the enterprise to both internal and external audits.
The senior lawyer alleged that those running the bankrupt institution had acted irresponsibly and extravagantly, though they knew the CEB was in deep financial crisis and couldn’t afford to engage in wasteful expenditure. Could there be anything as shocking as preparing an estimate Rs. 40 billion in excess than the required amount, Dr. Costa said.
“When the CEB estimated the funds it required at Rs. 268 billion, the PUCSL after having closely studied its requirements, reduced Rs 40 billion from that amount. Much to our surprise, the CEB accepted the drastic cut,” Dr Costa said.
In fact those demanding an explanation from the PUCSL for authorizing a sharp increase in electricity tariff should ask the CEB to explain the circumstances under which it prepared its latest estimates, Dr. Costa said. Responding to another query, the PUCSL chief pointed out that the situation could have been much worse if the PUCSL didn’t intervene to cut the CEB budget.
Dr. Costa said that the CEB management should realize that it served over 5.5 million familier and couldn’t run the institution according to the whims and fancies of a few.
By Shamindra Ferdinando