“But the report handed over to me informing the details of the road construction work says that Rs. 28 billion had been spent on other work within the Highways Ministry,” he said.
“The former President was both the Finance Minister and Highways Minister. He should inform as to what happened to the Rs. 28 billion taken to construct the said roads. Why did he waste that amount of money, he should reply. When he replies, I am ready to respond to him,” the Prime Minister said.
Addressing meetings at Galaha, Badrawathi Maha Vidyalaya and Ranvila Rajasingha Vidyalya, Kandy after handing over deeds to recipients of land, Prime Minister Wickremesinghe said he received a letter from a person in this area asking him why the government has not begun the construction of Wattegama – Matale Road which was a promise of the former President.
“He had also written that the present government had stopped road construction begun during the period of the former President. He wanted to know what we have done.
Having received this letter I requested the Finance Ministry to give me the report after a proper inquiry as to what had happened to the road construction project. I have received that report now,” the Prime Minister said.
The former President as the Finance Minister had released to the Highways Ministry Rs. 143,000 million in 2014 for the constructions of roads. In addition to that he had also taken Rs. 55 billion as a loan from the National Savings Bank to construct 27 roads. Wattegama – Matale road and the Hasalaka- Handungamuwa are included in that, he said.
Rajapaksa as the Highways Minister sending a letter to the Finance Minister had obtained that money from the National Savings Bank for the construction of the said roads. What happened to that money allocated for the purpose of construction of the said roads?, the Prime Minister asked.
“From the Rs. 55 billion allocated for the construction of the said number of roads, Rs.28 billion had been utilised for other work within the Highways Ministry. There was only 21 billion left for the construction of the said roads. It was not possible to construct all the said roads with that money.
This is what had happened to the construction work of the Wattegama- Matale road,” the Prime Minister said.
Prime Minister Wickremesinghe said the country does not know for what purpose such a large amount of money was used by the former President.
“Was it used to travel in helicopters or for danselas, we do not know. The money deposited in the NSB is the money of men and women like you”.
During the election the then government promised to carry out projects without allocating money for such projects or allocated money in the name of the said projects but used them for other purposes.
“The report I got from the Treasury Secretary deals with that. No doubt, we have to construct highways.
But development does not mean only constructing highways. Construction of buildings for industries, housing and other development work have to be carried our for real development,” the Premier said.”
If the former President comes this way you have the right to ask him what he did with the money meant for the construction of the Weattegama- Matale Raod.
What are the other works he had done with the money specifically allocated for the construction of this road.
For such uses we say a pinkam or a horakam (stealing).Someone from the UPFA should answer,” the Prime Minister said.
Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa said Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has alleged that he in his capacity as the Highways Minister had taken a loan of Rs. 55 billion from the National Savings Bank for 28 road projects but that Rs. 28 billion out of this money had been used for other purposes such as helicopter rides and to provide free meals to people.
“This is part of the ongoing smear campaign against me and an attempt to belittle the solid achievements of my government in infrastructure development. The Road Development Authority did indeed obtain a long term credit facility of Rs. 55 billion from the NSB for 28 road projects,” Rajapkasa stated in a release yesterday.
The release added: The Rs. 28 billion referred to by the Prime Minister is not a part of the Rs. 55 billion long term loan. It is a separate short-term loan that was negotiated between the Road Development Authority and the NSB to meet payments relating to various ongoing projects.
The Treasury has in fact issued ‘letters of comfort’ to the NSB asking them to release this short term loan to the RDA to be settled later through the 2015 budget. All road projects are evaluated by the RDA engineers and tender boards and payments are certified based on the work done. The Parliamentary Committee on Public Enterprise (COPE) can verify the work carried out by the RDA on the basis of the NSB credit facilities.
The Rs. 28 billion short term loan from the NSB was utilised for the most part to meet the ‘local component’ requirements in projects funded by foreign donors like JICA and the ADB. Some of it was used for the maintenance and repair of existing roads.
In any event all the money was spent on road development. As for the other Rs. 55 billion taken from the NSB, some of the projects coming under that long term loan are still on going and the entire amount has not yet been utilised.
I wish to state the provision was made in my last budget for the repayment of the entire short-term loan of Rs. 28 billion to the NSB and it was approved by Parliament. The reason why the present government is concocting various stories about this Rs. 28 billion is obviously because they have misspent the money allocated in my budget and are now unable to make the scheduled payment to the NSB.”