ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday February 24, 2008
Vol. 42 - No 39

JVP insists on fertilizer probe

By Damith Wickremasekara

The JVP has hit out at Agriculture Minister Maithripala Sirisena over a multi-million rupee fertilizer scandal after revelations that the Ceylon Fertilizer Corporation (CFC) was involved in importing fertilizers resulting in mega losses to the government.

Although former CFC Chairman Lalith Kantha Jayasekara and General Manager R. Niunhella have been interdicted, the JVP is insisting that a further probe be conducted. One of the allegations was that a stock of TST fertilizer usually imported in bulk form had been imported in containers prompting the CFC first to cancel the tender and thereafter approve it.

By then the price of a metric ton of fertilizer had shot up from US $ 424 per mt. to US $ 906 per mt. Around 60,000 Mts. of this variety of fertilizer had been imported. In another instance 54,000 fertilizer bags that had been imported were replaced by bags that were made by a local company in Polonnaruwa. The original bags had been replaced apparently on grounds that they were substandard. However, it was revealed that the bags that were produced locally too were below standard.

Agriculture Ministry secretary T.M. Abeywickrama said in another case some 36,000 mt. had been ordered and two companies had made bids. One of the companies had submitted a low proposal, but there was a question as to whether the company could import such stock.

The Secretary added payments were usually made after a 180-day period, but in this case the documents had been made in a manner that the payments could be made soon after the shipment.

He added the LC that had been opened did not follow guidelines laid down by the government. The LC itself had been transferred on 17 occasions. Former chairman Jayasekara responding to the allegations claimed that the tender had first been cancelled and again re-ordered without his knowledge. He claimed the evaluation committee in which he was not involved had taken the decision.

Referring to the decision to use locally made bags, he said this was done because the imported bags did not conform to standards and due to the urgent need to release the fertilizer. He said his intention was to provide fertilizer at a lower price and this was the reason to import fertilizer at US $ 299 per bag. He claimed that if the quality was low, Cabinet would not have given its approval for the imports.

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