3,500 tons of imported rice worth Rs. 210 Mn found rotting in warehouse

While Lanka Sathosa restricted sales to 50kg per person



by Suresh Perera


In another shocking incident of criminal waste of state resources, the top anti-corruption Presidential Commission last week sealed a Lanka Sathosa warehouse, where 3,500 metric tons of rice deemed unfit for human consumption, was discovered, officials said.


The 198 container loads worth Rs. 210 million had arrived at the Colombo Port from India on Letters of Credit (L/Cs) opened during the previous government, and after clearance, stored in a warehouse at Veyangoda and completely forgotten, they said.


The stock had been in good condition at the time of import, but bureaucratic bungling had resulted in the consignment rotting in the warehouse without being distributed amongst Lanka Sathosa outlets to be sold to the public, they asserted.


Officials of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry to Investigate and Inquire into Serious Acts of Fraud, Corruption and Abuse of Power, State Resources and Privileges (PRECIFAC) had gone to the Colombo Port in connection with the ongoing probe into 300 containers of rice gone missing, when they got wind of a stock stored at Veyangoda, the officials explained.


The warehouse was sealed on Thursday and the following day the Consumer Affairs Authority (CAA) and public health inspectors examined the weevil-infested, spoiled consignment and declared the whole stock unfit for human consumption, the officials said.


This stock had nothing to do with the missing containers, but initial investigations revealed that the 3,500 mt had been moved to the warehouse and allowed to rot due to mismanagement, they asserted.


These are public funds that are being squandered due to mismanagement, they noted. "Rs. 210 million has gone down the drain".


Transporting 3,500 metric tons to be destroyed also entails an additional cost, they pointed out. "At the end of the day, there’s nobody in authority held responsible for this criminal waste of public resources".


The rice is no longer fit for human consumption, says Lacille de Silva, Secretary to PRECIFAC. "It was stored in the warehouse until we moved in and sealed it".


Every indication is that there are more spoiled consignments in Lanka Sathosa warehouses as huge stocks had been imported without proper planning or an effective market survey, the officials said. "It is an open secret that kickbacks flow from imports".


While this huge stock was decaying in a warehouse, the Lanka Sathosa management directed its outlets to restrict the sale of rice to 50 kilos per person during the festive season, an official said.


"We were given this directive during end November 2015 and had to comply", he said. "While rice was rotting in a warehouse, we couldn’t cater to customers who wanted more than the stipulated quantity".


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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