COPE spotlight fiddles by Sri Lanka Cricket


by Shamindra Ferdinando

In the wake the Supreme Court setting the stage for the long awaited elections for the cash-strapped SLC board, parliamentary anti-corruption watchdog, COPE (Committee on Public Enterprises) has revealed shocking waste of funds leading to bankruptcy of an institution once categorized one of the most profitable in the country.

The 31-member COPE headed by Senior Minister Dew Gunasekera, General Secretary of the CPSL blamed the financial crisis on interim committees appointed by the incumbent Rajapaksa administration.

Political sources said that the report couldn’t have come at a worse time for the government as the SLC is struggling to pay national cricketers.

Minister Gunasekera tabled the 176-page report in parliament last Tuesday, which dealt with irregularities in various sectors, ranging from Universities to Lanka Logistics Limited, a subsidiary of the Defence Ministry.

Responding to a query by ‘The Sunday Island’, COPE sources said that they would pursue inquiries into SLC affair. The bottom line was that the COPE revelations could play a major role at the forthcoming polls, sources said.

Politicians and their henchmen had caused irreparable damage to SLC sources alleged, adding the COPE wouldn’t find it easy to get over the influence of those in power who could undermine investigations.

COPE has called for an explanation from the SLC regarding unprecedented increase in its expenditure by a staggering 524 per cent since 2009, subsequent to cricket bosses claiming this was due to spending on the Sri Lanka A team, Under-19 team, expansion of the national pool to 100 players and promotion of women cricket.

According to the COPE report, a copy of which ‘The Sunday Island’ obtained, the watchdog committee has questioned the SLC regarding its failure to finalize agreements with the national players. The SLC has told COPE that the players would continue to represent Sri Lanka even in the absence of such agreement.

The COPE also called for a report on the handing over of the construction of Sooriyawewa Cricket stadium to Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA). It also questioned the controversial decision to construct a new stadium at a staggering cost without renovating the existing ground at Dambulla, removal of a compact disk containing the accounts of the last World Cup and the selection of the World Cup Director.

The SLC’s liabilities were estimated at Rs. 6.1 bn, whereas the total assets at Rs. 3.1 bn. The SLC has sought a bank loan from the BOC to overcome the crisis.

Among the other issues raised by the COPE was Carlton Sports Network receiving the telecasting rights of Sri Lanka Premier League matches through Summerset Entertainment and the SLC Secretary functioning as the CEO of the Carlton Sports Network.

While the SLC had been borrowing heavily to run its operations, some of those working for the organization continued to receive a range of benefits. The COPE pointed out the absurdity in the SLC paying Rs. 650,000 to some officers for doing a good job during a recent tour of Australia and has requested the SLC to submit a list of those lucky recipients.

COPE also recommended punitive action against Chairman and CEO of interim committee for entering into a controversial agreement with the Summer Entertainment Venture giving undue advantage to the sponsor at the expense of the national team.

It demanded an explanation with regard to spending Rs. 7.18 bn for the construction of new cricket facilities and expansion of Khettarama in the run-up to the last Cricket World Cup in spite of the initial estimate being Rs. 3.3 bn.

Analysts noted that Sri Lanka skipper Kumar Sangakkara got into trouble with the powers that be by candidly speaking out about corruption in cricket in his widely acclaimed Colin Cowdrey lecture at Lord’s some months ago.

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