(Kumarasiri Hettige, was a big shot in the Rajapaksa circle)
The Jathika Uruma Trust, headed by Kumarasiri Hettige, the former Parliamentary Co-ordinating Secretary (PCS) to President Mahinda Rajapaksa, is now in the eye of a storm, with an audit query requiring an explanation about financial irregularities amounting to Rs. 18 million, released by the Central Cultural Fund to the said Trust, to build a national heritage museum in Matara.
The money unaccounted for totals Rs. 18,811,046.
According to the audit query, the Trust has been purportedly set up at the Kahavilgoda Purana Raja Maha Vihara in Akuressa, Matara.
The Auditor General’s Department through query M/A/2014/Q/20 dated February 23, 2015 has questioned as to how funds have been absorbed for this purpose when the said organisation has not been registered as a Trust according to the laws of the land, drawing the inference that the disbursement was in violation of the country’s financial regulations.
The query refers to fund disbursements, approved on the strength of memos issued by the former Secretary to the Ministry of Cultural Affairs and the Central Cultural Fund (CCF), approving a total project allocation of Rs. 60 million, for which financial estimates and construction plans have not been submitted.
However, the Audit Department has raised the query that Rs. 18 million remained unaccounted for due to the lack of supportive documents, including vouchers and receipts.
The Trust is not registered, according to sources, although the process began in 2013.
The registration documenters have reached Parliament only in early 2015, top parliamentary sources said.
When contacted, former Presidential Parliamentary Co-ordinating Secretary, Kumarasiri Hettige said he was invited by the Chief Priest of the temple, Ven. Paraduwe Jinarathana Thera, to help coordinate the project and subsequently invited to head the Trust, as it is a good cause.
“I wanted to help as it was a good initiative.
I have never signed any document and never authorised or handled the finances in any form,” he said, adding that a proper inquiry would clear his name.
Meanwhile, Ven. Paraduwe Jinarathana Thera, the Chief Priest of the temple, told the Sunday Observer the relevant documents will be submitted to the Financial Crimes Investigations Division (FCID) tomorrow (15). An inquiry is already underway.
Ven. Jinarathana Thera said the project was undertaken in the interest of conserving and showcasing Sri Lanka’s national heritage, and added that some people involved in the project were trying to bring him (priest) in to disrepute and others associated with the project.
The Thera said the Trust was a legal entity as it had been incorporated through a Parliamentary Act and hence there was no need to have it registered under the Ministry of Cultural Affairs.
When contacted, a top official from the Ministry of Cultural Affairs insisted that such a Trust did not exist and it had no registration. “This so-called Trust has no legal basis,” the official said.