ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, October 15, 2006
Vol. 41 - No 20
Financial Times

PBJ - judge, jury & executioner? - SLIC-PERC issue

By Natasha Gunaratne

A sub-committee of COPE (Committee on Public Enterprises) last week, summoned officials from institutions involved in the sale of Sri Lanka Insurance Corporation (SLIC) for clarification but an important ‘witness’, Treasury Secretary Dr. P. B. Jayasundera didn’t turn up. A member of the sub-committee told The Sunday Times that the individuals who appeared before them last Wednesday "were conning to us." and further added that the answers the committee got were not at all “satisfactory.” Those who appeared before the committee were Ernst & Young representatives, Senior Partner of PricewaterhouseCoopers Aneela De Soysa, PERC Chairman W. M. Bandusena, Director of Monitoring & Evaluation at PERC E. Arumugam, and Skills Development Ministry Secretary P.M.G. Premasiri.

The Treasury Secretary had also been summoned to explain allegations of conflict of interest for his role in the privatisation of SLIC. Dr Jayasundera was former Chairman and Senior Advisor of PERC at the time of the privatisation as well as a Senior Policy Advisor to Ernst & Young, the auditors for SLIC. Now it appears as if the Judge, Jury and Executioner are one and the same as PERC who is investigating the matter has handed over their findings and recommendations to the Treasury Secretary for action! "We are just helping the government," said Bandusena, speaking to The Sunday Times, a few weeks ago, when asked what the status of the probe on the SLIC deal was.

"We have made our recommendation to the Secretary of the Treasury. Now he has to make the decision." Skill Development Minister Sripathi Sooriyaarachchi, who is in charge of PERC, told The Sunday Times in September that the government was planning to initiate legal action against auditors Ernst & Young and the consortium on buyers.

Subsequently he too said the matter had been handed over to the Treasury.

The next course of action the sub committee will take is to hand over a series of questions to the Auditor General who on October 27 will meet with those summoned in an attempt to get some straight answers. "We are only watchdogs and not bloodhounds," said parliamentarian Ravi Karunanayake, a member of the sub committee. "If there are serious misrepresentations, then we will take action."

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