Missions won’t comment on treasury bond scam impact on projects

Australian, US grants amounting to over Rs 5bn:

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Australian High Commission has declined to confirm whether Treasury bond scam had been examined by Canberra before the recent finalization of a AUD 31 mn (Rs 3.8 bn) grant for the implementation of a four-year project to strengthen good governance.

Secretary to the Ministry of Finance and Mass Media, Dr. R. H. S. Samaratunga, signed the agreement on behalf of the Government of Sri Lanka and High Commissioner Bryce Hutchesson signed on behalf of the Government of Australia at the Ministry of Finance and Mass Media on Jan. 30, 2018.

The Australian HC refused to respond to the following questions: Did Australia consider/examine Presidential Report on Sri Lanka Central Bank Bond scams and other related material before reaching agreement on this particular project? (2) Would this funding be subjected to Sri Lanka auditing or yours? (3) Are you aware of a similar project implemented here by USAID worth Rs 1.92 bn?

Australian HC source explained to The Island that the matter couldn’t be discussed with the media.

The Finance Ministry, in a statement issued here quoted AHC Hutchesson as having said, "Australia places great importance on these types of arrangements, which sit under our broader Development Cooperation MOU, as a means of ensuring our programmes are aligned fully with Sri Lanka’s national objectives and reflect a shared vision for development."

According to the ministry the Australian funded project was meant to enhance economic growth. "Some of the activities under the programme include a partnership with the World Bank to support the Sri Lankan Government’s implementation of national economic reforms, and work with The Asia Foundation to strengthen public sector service delivery at the sub-national level, including for women and people with disabilities.

The US embassy, too, declined to comment on The Island queries in respect of their stand on treasury bond scams allegedly perpetrated by yahapalana administration against the backdrop of US pledging to help Sri Lanka recover funds stolen by the previous government. The US embassy was asked whether State Department had examined (taken into consideration) treasury bond scams perpetrated in Feb 2015 and March 2016 before offering special assistance to Sri Lanka, including Resident Legal Advisor, Colombo?

A clarification was also sought from the US embassy as regards the amount of funding made available to Sri Lanka out of USD 115 mn allocated for anti-corruption activities in various countries.

Under a three-year US funded project launched in 2016, Rs. 1.92 would be spend for Sri Lanka project.

UPFA MP and JO loyalist Ranjith Zoysa yesterday told The Island that those who had issued statements on behalf of foreign governments at the drop of a hat during the previous administration were silent on treasury bond scams. Zoysa said that Western governments had been really embarrassed by massive financial frauds perpetrated by an administration they helped to install.

Ratnapura District MP Zoysa pointed out that Sri Lanka had received grants amounting to over Rs. 5 bn from Australia and the US for the much touted purpose of enhancing good governance whereas the government was engaged in malpractices. The MP said that there hadn’t been a previous instance here or abroad of an elected government accused of and investigated for causing debilitating losses to its own Central Bank.

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