Lanka Sathosa HR Director on the mat

Alleged forged qualifications hushed up during former govt.



by Suresh Perera


The shocking outcome of a probe by the Presidential Investigation Unit (PIU) that a director of a state-run institution had allegedly concocted academic qualifications to secure the job and drawn an all-inclusive package of around Rs. 200,000 per month, was swept under the carpet during the tenure of the former government, senior officials disclosed last week.


The high-ranking officer concerned claimed he had the requisite qualifications for the job, but PIU sleuths discovered that he was not even GCE (Ordinary Level) qualified and was unsuitable for such a responsible, top position, they noted.


His claim to have passed the GCE (Advanced Level) examination was found to be totally false, they asserted. "There was a blatant violation of established procedures, but those in authority opted to turn a blind eye".


Notwithstanding the telling indictment, which listed a series of alleged irregularities, including retaining an official cheque book to draw payments for himself, the then Mahinda Rajapaksa administration chose to completely ignore the malpractices, they noted.


More than two years after the PIU findings, Priyal Perera, the director in charge of Human Resources and Administration at Lanka Sathosa, has now been interdicted and charge sheeted pending an inquiry. He was earlier sent on compulsory leave.


It all began when CID sleuths, armed with an official request, walked into the Lanka Sathosa head office in Colombo and wanted to examine Perera’s personal file. A perusal revealed that his educational certificates had gone missing, the officials claimed.


The PIU, headed by former DIG Tilak Iddamalgoda, had begun investigations on a petition by a "group of Lanka Sathosa employees who oppose fraud and corruption". It alleged that the director concerned was appointed despite not possessing the requisite qualifications, and continued to draw a monthly remuneration of more than Rs. 100,000 (minus allowances).


The petition also alleged that he was drawing vehicle/fuel allowances in contravention of regulations, fraudulently retained an official cheque book, hired vehicles for the institution on monthly payment basis from friends without calling for tenders and that he reimbursed himself the EPF contribution deducted from his salary.


He was also accused of granting new appointments, pay increases, promotions and transfers to employees loyal to him, using Lanka Sathosa suppliers to renovate his private residence, obtaining a commission by forcing employees to obtain SIM cards from a certain identified mobile service provider, accepting inducements to recruit employees, granting extension of service to a certain woman employee above 60 years old and exerting pressure on the accountant and obtaining leave pay sans approval.


The PIU, which probed these allegations, found that Perera had applied for a job in human resources following a newspaper advertisement published on September 18, 2005, calling for the recruitment of senior managers.


However, no documents were found at Lanka Sathosa to indicate that an interview was conducted, though Perera claimed there was one at the institution’s Vauxall Street office. The then Ministry Secretary, Charith Wirithamulla, headed the board of interview, according to his statement.


On his educational qualifications, the PIU found his claim to have passed the GCE A/L unacceptable as a check on documentation of a leading school in Colombo 7, brought to light that he had first passed three subjects at the GCE O/L in 1975 and in the second attempt the following year, got through five subjects. He had not qualified to sit for the GCE A/L.


It has been revealed that at Lanka Sathosa, he drew a monthly salary of Rs. 113,750 as Director, Human Resources (with the appendage ‘Administration’ affixed later). Subsequently, he drew Rs. 117,500 and an additional Rs. 43,500 as ‘vehicle allowance’, Rs. 18,000 as ‘fuel allowance’ and a special allowance of Rs. 13,750 for entertainment. No board approval was received.


Inquiries the PIU had made from the Ministry revealed that Perera’s designation was actually DGM (Human Resources and Administration) and his remuneration should be Rs. 48,345 per month. Investigations also found that he had retained an official cheque book to pay himself.


It was also not clear on what basis he reimbursed himself Rs. 13,750 per month as a special allowance as no board approval was obtained. This figure was identical to his monthly EPF contribution.


The PIU had also found evidence that Perera had done recruitment on favoritism and that he obtained ‘leave pay’, which he was not entitled to, according to the accountant. He had also recommended extensions of service to the woman employee, who at the time was 63 years old.


However, the allegations that he urged suppliers to renovate his house, forced employees to obtain SIM cards and accepted inducements for recruitment were not substantiated.


The PIU report observed that a graduate should have been recruited to the position held by Perera, who does not have even GCE O/L qualifications, and under these circumstances, drawing a salary of Rs. 103,750 was against all norms of proper conduct. He had failed to carry out his responsibilities and was of no service to Lanka Sathosa, it noted.


It was also established that Perera repeatedly claimed to be a friend of the (then) President and "nobody could remove him from his position". The PIU earlier sought his removal, but no action was initiated.


The PIU had recommended that Perera be asked to pay back all dues/allowances he has drawn in contravention of regulations and without board approval. Legal action should also be initiated against him for allegedly claiming spurious educational qualifications.


The alleged charges against Perera include the drawing of nine cheques valued at Rs. 123,750 from time to time for "entertainment", a private purpose for which government funds had been expended.


During the 01.01.2006 – 27.03.2015 period, he had drawn Rs. 2.5 million in excess as vehicle/fuel allowances. In addition, Rs. 378,000 had been drawn as ‘leave pay’ and Rs. 1.36 million as ‘salary reimbursement’.


He is also accused of submitting forged educational certificates and/or during the interview and misleading the management. Due to an oversight, his designation had been given as ‘director’, Human Resources and Administration and Perera had, either deliberately or unwittingly continued to use this flawed description in all documentation including the company ID card and his passport.


The CID visited the Lanka Sathosa office to examine his personal file as the school had confirmed that his GCE O/L and A/L certificates were forged, it is alleged.


When they examined the file in the process of taking it over for investigation, it was found that either he or somebody with his knowledge had tampered with it and removed the educational certificates.


It is also alleged that Perera had asked the personal assistant to discreetly insert a photocopy of his GCE O/L certificate into the file, but the attempt had failed due to the vigilance of the present Chairman, Kiran Atapattu.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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