The Ministry of Transport acknowledged that the National Transport Commission (NTC) had made certain mistakes in the tender process in relation to the issuing of route permits to passenger transport services seeking to operate on the Southern expressway. Recently, the Lanka Private Bus Owners Association led by its President Gemunu Wijeratne who claimed he had received death threats in this regard previously, lodged a complaint with the Commission to Investigate into Allegations of Bribery or Corruption regarding alleged irregularities including malpractice in relation to said the issuing of route permits (which are issued for a five year period) against Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva and the NTC.
Wijeratne had stated elsewhere that of the 225 private buses operating on the said expressway, only five route permits had been provided in a transparent manner and the rest had been given temporarily in violation of the principles of the tender procedure. He further stated that as a result of the alleged fraud, the Government incurred an annual loss of Rs 2 billion. According to him, the tender had been withdrawn on two separate occasions, 2016 August 6 and 2017 July 14. The NTC’s earnings per permit amounts to Rs 750,000.
Secretary – Ministry, Nihal Somaweera noted that there was a Cabinet decision with regard to going for an open tender in relation to the said matter. The Cabinet decision also contained certain conditions, he said. He informed that following the allegations being leveled, he had made queries as to the situation from the Ministry’s member in the tender board. He denied any bribery or corruption.
“There have been mistakes made in the documentation. Time has been extended. The NTC has not totally cancelled the tender procedure. The NTC cannot go against the Cabinet decision. The mistake has been in the tender process. Corrections will be made in the documentation and with some amendments to such, the NTC will go ahead with the tender procedure,” he explained. Chairman of the NTC, Engineer M.A.P. Hemachandra was not available for a comment.