Audit query from Public Trustee yet unansweredView(s):
A nephew of the Public Trustee has been paid the highest amount as legal fees for cases handled on behalf of the Department, an audit inquiry made by the Auditor General’s (AG’s) Department has revealed.
The AG’s Department which made the inquiry nearly seven months ago from the Public Trustee’s Department over the payment seven million rupees as legal fees for 124 cases within a period of one year, has yet to receive a reply to the query.
The list attached to the letter details 35 cases with the name of lawyers and legal fees paid, with the majority of the legal fees paid to Ganesh Dharmawardane, who is said to be the nephew of Public Trustee Sarath Seneviratne.
In the letter sent in February this year, the Auditor General’s Department has questioned the legal fees payment from June 2010 to July 2011 and the Public Trustes’s method of selecting lawyers.
Of the list of 35 cases attached to the letter, 24 of them have been handled by Mr. Dharmawardane and his junior Mayomi Ranasinghe. Out of Rs.5.9 million paid as legal fees, Rs.3.7 million has been paid to this lawyer and his junior.
Sources from the Public Trustee’s Department said though the junior lawyer has been paid quite a large sum as legal fees, a portion of it has to be given to her senior.
A senior official of the Auditor General’s Department told the Sunday Times that under the Establishments Code all State departments should consult the Attorney General’s Department with regard to the payment of legal fees and other legal matters.
“As the Attorney General Department’s advice has not been obtained for legal work, the Auditor General’s Department has asked the Public Trustee for explanation,” he said.
He said the letter was sent as there were excessive and unrealistic legal fees paid and the Auditor General’s Department needed an explanation.The payments varied from Rs.500,000 to Rs.352,000 and in one instance Rs.262,000 had been paid for two appearances in the Court of Appeal which is in Colombo.
Meanwhile, the list reveals that a former Senior State Counsel with decades of experience at the Bar has been paid a lesser amount to appear in a District Court out of Colombo.
The Auditor General has also requested the Public Trustee to state the payment of Rs.742,850 with regard to a public investment account and the present condition of this account.The letter also stated that the Public Trustee’s Department needs an internal control on expenses.
The Public Trustee told the Sunday Times he is unable to comment without referring to the payment documents and as he was out of Colombo it could be done only upon his return.
Previously, the Sunday Times reported the controversy after the Public Trustee had succeeded in appointing his nephew Ganesh, a private lawyer, as Acting Public Trustee for three months in the Department that oversees millions of rupees in several Trusts. The appointment was made while the Deputy Public Trustee was in office.
comments powered by Disqus