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The Auditor General’s report dated 18 October 2022 highlights, non implementation of projects for decades, large-scale waste of recourses, and corruption in the education sector of Sri Lanka. Given the impunity that prevails in the country, no action has been taken to culprits to the book or correct the wrongdoings.
In terms of Section 25 of Assisted Schools and Training Colleges (Supplementary Provisions) Act No. 8 of 1961, no person shall establish any school for the education of persons who are between the age of five years and the age of fourteen years. Nevertheless, without mediation of the Ministry of Education, 319 international schools had been maintained as business establishments in addition to the private schools and 317 Madrasa Schools had been maintained as religious schools and those had not been subject to the supervision of the Ministry of Education.
The national education system was neglected for 30 years.
According to the provisions of the National Education Commission Act No. 19 of 1991, the National Education Commission had made recommendations in the years 1992,2003,2016,2018 and 2019 for creating a national education system that enables the approach to the world competition with self-confidence and confidence of success in accordance with the role of the Ministry of Education. Nevertheless, no specific and firm national education policy had been formulated even by the end of 2021.
The learning loss due to Covid-19
Although it was supposed to conduct schools for 229 days in the year 2021 under the condition of Covid-19 epidemic, schools were held for 102 days in the Western Province and only for143 days in the other provinces, and the school year had been extended up to 08 April 2022. The extent of learning loss to children had not been assessed. Even though the distance teaching method was adopted to cover the subjects of the lost school days, due to the signal problems and the lack of necessary technical facilities, students’ inability to connect to that process online, difficulty in joining online education due to the poor economic status of the parents, and the majority of teachers have little knowledge of distance education, it was not possible to achieve successful results from the relevant method.
100-day accelerated programme – Failed
Although the National Institute of Education had proposed to prepare and implement a 100-day accelerated programme in the years 2021 and 2022 to cover the lost learning opportunities of the students in the years 2020 and 2021 due to the Covid-19 epidemic situation, the Ministry of Education had failed to implement that programme.
According to the audit test check, 49 acres, 02 roods and 33 perches of lands belonging to 26 schools of the island, 07 acres, 01 rood and 25 perches of lands belonging to 03 teacher’s training colleges and 91 acres and 24 perches belonging to a college of education had been illegally occupied by external parties, the follow up measures taken
by the Ministry of Education was at a poor level.
Rs. 2,331 million was wasted in the “Nearest School is the Best School” programme.
Even though the “Nearest School is the Best School” national programme designed to rebuild a centralized fully equipped school system to build a student generation nourished with knowledge and quality ended on 31 December, works of 05 principal quarters and 09 teachers’ quarters built in 03 provinces at a cost of Rs.7.3 million had not been completed even by 05 July 2022 and there was a Principal’s quarters and a teacher’s quarters for which Rs.6.52 million had been spent, though physical progress could not be seen.
According to the information submitted by 07 provinces relating to this project, 117 projects with an estimated value of Rs. 2,331 million, the work of which had been initiated, had been abandoned before its completion by the end of the year under review. A sum of Rs. 1,851 million had been paid and a sum of Rs. 1,756 was further to paid for those projects as at 31 December 2022.
Making the entire teaching staff graduate – Failed
On 02 December 2019, the Minister of Education had submitted a Cabinet Memorandum titled “Making the entire teaching staff of Sri Lanka graduates and upgrading the National College of Education to the status of a University faculty” and the policy approval therefore granted by the Cabinet Decision No.අමප/19/3353/219/006 dated 31 December 2019. Nevertheless, having appointed an expert committee as mentioned in the proposal included in the Cabinet Memorandum, the programmes required for the implementation of the proposal were in the stage of preparation.
Training: Rs.2,200 million had been annually spent but incomplete
Nineteen colleges of education had been established to train teachers, for which more than Rs.2,200 million had been annually spent from the Consolidated Fund. Trainees should have been admitted annually to the colleges of education from the students who passed the General Certificate of Education (Advanced Level) examination. The admission of students for the national colleges of education based on the results of the General Certificate of Education (Advanced Level) 2018 examination had not been completed even in 2021 and the enrollment of students based on the results of the General Certificate of Education (Advance Level) examinations 2019 and 2020 had not been done even up to 22 May 2022.
A citizen-client charter – a nonstarter
In terms of Public Administration Circular No. 05/2008 dated 06 February 2008 and No. 05/2008 (i) 24 dated January, 2018, every public institution should establish a citizen client charter in the form of a written obligation to the effect that the needs of the public receiving services from a public institution are fulfilled promptly, efficiently, qualitatively and continuously. Nevertheless, the Ministry of Education, which provides various services, had not prepared and maintained a citizen-client charter as per the circular even by the end of 2021.
Failed training of Dhamma school training of Rs.3.73 million
Although Rs.3.73 million from the provisions of the Ministry of Education had been given to the State Ministry of Dhamma Schools, Piriven and Bhikkhu Education for a training programme of the Sri Lanka Institute of Development Administration, it had not been possible to complete this training programme even by the end of 2021.
Pumping millions to state TV – No evaluation
Failure to evaluate productivity of programs For the purpose of broadcasting the “Guru Gedara” educational programmes in order to continue the educational activities of the
students whose educational activities were interrupted due to the closure of the schools in the face of Covid-19 epidemic situation in 2020, sums totalling Rs.226.9 million comprising Rs. 28.6 million and Rs. 198.3 million respectively in the years 2020 and 2021 had been paid to National Television by the State Ministry of Education Reforms, Open Universities and Distance Education Promotion.
Nevertheless, the productivity of these programmes had not been evaluated.
The project period expired without a software and computer inputs creation center
Although it had been proposed to establish a national level subject oriented/ software and computer inputs creation center at Pitipana North, Homagama as per the project
feasibility report, subsequently, the Kuliapitiya Narangalawatta area had recommended for that purpose according to the Cabinet Decision No. අමප/18/1142/835/005 dated 13 June 2018. Again, according to the Cabinet Decision No. අමප/19/3468/219/016 dated 09 January 2020, a decision had been reached to use the unused portion of the 08 acre land currently being used by the Education Publication Department at the Homagama Divisional Secretariat Division for this purpose. As a result of hanging the proposed land related to the construction of the project from time to time, it was not possible to actively implement the project despite the signing of the agreement in the year 2019 and the project period had also expired.
Provincial Information Technology Education Centers – Failed
According to Cabinet Decision No. අමප /18/1142/835/005 dated 13 June 2018, approval had been grated for the construction of 2 Provincial Information Technology Education
Centers at premises of Nilwala College of Education for the Southern Province and at the Addalachchenei College of Education for the Eastern Province. Subsequently, decision had been taken to construct the Southern Provincial Information Technology Education Center at the Galle Pnagamuwa Amarasinghe School premises as per the Cabinet Decision
No. අමප/21/1324/308/113 dated 26 July 2021 and to use the land depicted as Lot No.1 in the Original Plan on the Inner Harbour Road in Trincomalee district to construct the Eastern Provincial Information Technology Education Center as per the Cabinet Decision No. අමප/21/1655/308/113-1 dated 28 September 2021.Accordingly, the project could not be activated due to the change in the location of the centers from time to time although the loan agreement was signed in 2019. By the Letter No. SRI/31-2573 dated 09
November 2021, submitted by the Korea EXIM Bank, it had requested an assurance to the effect that the proposed location of the centers of this project would not be changed
repeatedly. That assurance had not been submitted and it had been failed to implement the project within the project period of 2019-2021.
National College of Education for the subject of Technology – Failed
With a view to minimizing the shortage of teachers teaching the subject of Technology for the General Certificate of Education (O/L) and the General Certificate of Education (A/L) classes, providing opportunities for the students following the Technology stream to pursue higher studies as the trainee teachers in the field of Technology, and providing the teachers of the Technology stream with training in relation to the subject of Technology for their professional development, approval had been granted for the Cabinet Memorandum No. අමප/16/2647/742/036-1 dated 18 January 2017 submitted for the establishment of a National College of Education for the subject of Technology. By the notification indicated in the Order No.93 of 2017 published in the Extraordinary Gazette dated 19 April 2017, the possession of a land situated at Narangolla in the Divisional Secretariat Division of Kuliyapitiya West had been vested in the Secretary to the Ministry of Education. Although Rs.15.3 million had been spent by the “ Nearest School is the Best School” project during the years 2019 and 2020 for the expenses including laying foundation stone of this project which was planned to be constructed on the Korean Government assistance, works of the project have been discontinued at present. Due to the delay of this project, the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) had quit the constructions of the project according to the revised work agreement and the responsibility thereof had been entrusted to the Ministry.
Nevertheless, the Ministry had failed to start the constructions of this project even up to 31 May 2022, the date of the audit.
Sri Lanka National Commission for UNESCO – pending since 2008
Inaugurating in the year 2005, the Sri Lanka National Commission for UNISCO was established in accordance with the Cabinet Decision No. අමප/08/1742/316/086 dated 24
September 2008 and the Bill drafted for provision for the matters connected or incidental thereto was forwarded to the Department of Legal Draftsman in the year 2008. Nevertheless, the Act had not been finalized even by the end of the year under review.
Even though appointment of the staff of the Commission and making payments should have been done by an Act, without being approved the Act, appointment of the staff of the
Commission and making payments had been effected on the Cabinet Approval No. අමප/08/1742/316/087 dated 04 October 2006. However, it had been informed according to the Letter No. DMS/0039/TEM dated 27 April 2016 of the Director General of Management Services that a post of Coordinating Officer cannot be approved under the Ministry of
Even though appointment of the staff of the Commission and making payments should have been done by an Act, without being approved the Act, appointment of the staff of the
Commission and making payments had been effected on the Cabinet Approval No. අමප/08/1742/316/087 dated 04 October 2006. However, it had been informed according to the Letter No. DMS/0039/TEM dated 27 April 2016 of the Director General of Management Services that a post of Coordinating Officer cannot be approved under the Ministry of Education for the UNESCO Permanent Agency in France. Nevertheless, an officer had been attached to the UNESCO Permanent Agency in France and the Ministry of Education had released Rs. 35.65 million to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as her remuneration from the year 2017 to 31 December 2021.
Having deposited a sum of Rs.10.26 million belonging to the UNSCO Scholarship Fund in a bank current account in the year 2015, award of scholarships had been commenced in
the year 2017. The Fund remained underutilized for about two years and the award of these scholarships had been stopped from May 2021.
Procurement – Rs.546 million printing press underused
With the objective of assuring the credibility of the candidates by getting a better finishing for the question papers and securing the maximum confidentiality, the Department of Examination had purchased a Wide web digital printing machine at a cost of Rs.546 million in the year 2018. Even though 4,898,000 copies of question papers had been printed for the General Certificate of Education (A/L) examination related to the year 2021 conducted in the year 2022, only 509,000 copies had been printed with
this printing machine and it had been 10 per cent of the total number of question papers printed.
The number of question papers printed for the General Certificate of Education (O/L) examination related to the year 2021 conducted in the year 2022 was 7,845,825 and 46,125 copies only had been printed with this machine and it was as low as 0.58 per cent of the total number of question papers. Further, the Wrapping Solution the machine purchased at a cost of Rs. 8.4 million in the year 2018 remained idle from the date of purchase without being utilized.
Rs.564 million building not completed
Although the construction of six storied multi-purpose building which was commenced in the year 2017 and scheduled to be completed by 02 February 2019 had been awarded to the Engineering Corporation for Rs.564 million according to the Cabinet Decision No. 13/1030/530/01/15 dated 06 May 2014 for the use of the Department of Examination in order to conduct school examinations institutional examinations, lessen the closure of schools for evaluation activities, use as the answer scripts collection center and to panel the answer scripts protectively as per the proposal of the expert committee appointed to investigate the issues cropped up in relation to the results of the General Certificate of Education (Advanced Level ) Examination 2011, works had not been completed even by 31 July 2022. Sums totaling Rs.258 million had been paid for the construction by 31 December 2021 including Rs.58 million to the Central Engineering Consultancy Bureau and Rs.200 million to the State Engineering Corporation.
A proposal had been made by the budget 2015 to construct a hostel building in the South Asian Centre for Teacher Development at Meepe at an estimated cost of Rs.198 million with the intention of providing hostel facilities for 100 local and foreign teaching students in relation to the National Institute of Education. Accordingly, the constructions had been started on 20 February 2018 and it was scheduled to be completed on 05 December 2019. A sum of Rs.151 million had been paid by 31 December 2021, but extensions had also been obtained on 06 occasions.
Nevertheless, constructions had not been completed even by 11 July 2021. Further, approval of the Urban Development Authority had not been obtained to carry out this construction even by 31 December 2021.
Printing Text Books – books worth Rs.92.5 million disposed
Since the Education Publications Department had printed textbooks without properly identifying the annual requirement of the students following the studies in the island and the necessary stores facilities were inadequate, books worth Rs.84 million and Rs. 8.5 million had been disposed in the years 2018 and 2021 respectively and it had been once
again identified that books valued at Rs.9.7 million were required to be disposed of by the end of the year 2021.
Uneconomic Transactions – Rs.650,000 monthly rent increased to 1.5
The National Education Commission that had been maintained in a building with 10,000 square feet in Nugegoda on a monthly rental of Rs.650,000 had been shifted to a space with 4,748 square feet in a Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall at an monthly rental of Rs.1.42 million with effect from 01 July 2021. Therefore, the average annual cost of Rs.8.1 million incurred on the building rent, electricity, water, security and sanitary services had increased up to Rs.17.1 million and the Commission had
to bear an additional cost of Rs.9 million.
Underutilized Assets – Rs.15.3 million remained idle.
Although the State Ministry of Education Reforms, Open Universities and Distance Education Promotion had purchased equipment on the proposal to construct studios under the Provincial Education Departments in 09 provinces for the use of “e-Thakshilawa” Learning Management System in the Regional Information and Technology Education Centres under the budget proposal 2021, studios had not been established in 05 provinces up to 31 May 2022 and therefore, equipment costing Rs.15.3 million provided for those provinces remained idle.
Excerpts from the Auditor General’s report dated 18 October 2022.