PM exposes shady deals over Kandy Expressway in Parliament

Parliament of Sri Lanka

The unsolicited proposals and the commissions that changed hands to construct the Kandy Expressway during the previous administration were brought to light in Parliament yesterday by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.

According to the Premier, the Kandy Expressway, whose construction is ongoing, should have started from Katunayake instead of connecting Kadawatha and Pothuhera wasting public money.

“This Expressway was planned from Katunayake to Kandy in 2003. But somebody changed it having considered the high payment compensations payable for properties which would be acquired on the Pothuhera side. You were looking at high commissions. If had a say on this project, ideally the Expressway would’ve been from Katunayake to Kandy,” he said.

Criticising the methods used to select a contactor and the procedure followed in construction as well as the ground-breaking ceremony, Wickremesinghe said, “a part of this project had been given to the Metallurgical Corporation of China (MCC) on unsolicited basis by the previous Government. We were unable to terminate the agreement that you (opposition MPs) had entered into with them but were able to award a different section of the Expressway project at a lower interest rate. In case the agreement was terminated, Sri Lanka would’ve had to pay compensation to the MCC. This is not the only sin we have to shoulder from the previous Government.

However, we were able to terminate several other unsolicited proposals with China.

So, they agreed with the current Government to construct the section from Kadawatha to Meerigama.

I don’t know why you agreed to give them the construction towards the Kegalle side section,” the Premier said, looking at Opposition benches.

“The former Government has entered into an unsolicited agreement with the MCC for the section from Pothuhera to Rambukkana. The best part is your Government started the road building with a ceremony in the middle of nowhere. We faced a problem of not being able to start from either ends of the Expressway. Yes, there were five local contractors who came forward to build the section from Kadawatha to Meerigama. The government was supposed to finance it. We don’t have money for this project but have serious issues such as increasing public salaries. So, the Asian Development Bank financed that section. You have taken commissions and we were threatened to pay compensations. However, we will give the local contractors a section either from Pothuhera to Dambulla or the Kandy side. We are discussing this with the World Bank and any local contactor can bid for it,” added Prime Minister Wickremesinghe in response to a supplementary question raised by Opposition Lawmaker Dullas Alahapperuma who demanded to know the Government’s stand on the MCC.

MP Alhapperuma said, “during the election campaign, the former administration was accused of unsolicited proposals. You created a public outcry against the former Government making use of this allegation. But you too have resorted to unsolicited tenders, which is more or less making use of a single source. I was a part of that Cabinet. We have given this section from Kadawatha to Meerigama to five local contractors.”

Minister of Highways and Higher Education and Leader of the House Lakshman Kiriella joining the debate said, “I am unable to remember talking about unsolicited tenders. But now the project is on, making use of much less interest rates compared to the 8% you had before. We were always concerned about high interest rates affecting the prices of essential items. In 2004, our Leader visited Malaysia to find a contractor. He was able to bring a contractor to do this entire Expressway for US$60 billion. What prevented you from continuing with the same contractor having gained power in 2005? Today, we will have to spend US$ 325 billion for the same.”

The Kandy Expressway project Phase 1, inaugurated on 3 August 2015, will be from Kadawatha to Meerigama connecting 37kms running over property in Mahara, Gampaha, Attanagalla, Minuwangoda, Meerigama, and Diwulapitiya divisional secretariats at a cost of Rs.4.48 billion per kilometre.

(Source: Daily FT – By Ashwin Hemmathagama)