By Shamindra Ferdinando
In the absence of proper scrutiny over a period of time at the highest level, there had been waste, corruption and irregularities at the Peradeniya University, the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) reported based on a recent examination of the University.
The parliamentary watchdog on Aug. 08 questioned the top management of the university pertaining to instructions issued on March 22 2023, when the university officials appeared before the House Committee.
COPE Chairman Prof. Ranjith Bandara chaired the meeting while Auditor General W.P.C. Wickremaratne raised a number of questions and made observations.Education Ministry Secretary Nihal Ranasinghe, University Grants Commission (UGC) Chairman Senior Prof. Sampath Amaratunga and Vice Chancellor of Perdeniya University Prof. M.D. Lamawansha and several senior representatives of the University attended the meeting.
Based on the findings made by the Auditor General, the COPE at the onset raised irregularities, corruption and fraudulent activities relating to constructions at the Peradeniya University. Having discussed the prevailing issues , Prof. Bandara asked Education Ministry Secretary Nihal Ranasinghe to probe issues at hand and report to the watchdog within three months.
The failure on the part of the University to collect Rs 25 mn from 63 University dons who had left the country for foreign Universities before 2010 was raised at the meeting. The current management admitted that it wasn’t aware of the whereabouts of those lecturers. The COPE pointed out that since 2010, altogether 122 Peradeniya dons had violated their agreements with the University.
During the proceedings, it was revealed that a Sri Jayewardenepura don had secured an appointment overseas using fraudulent documents.The COPE also directed Prof. Amaratunga to make it compulsory for non-academic staff to use the biometric attendance system. Instructions have been issued after University management acknowledged that some sections of non-academic staff didn’t use the machines.
When the COPE inquired about misappropriation of Rs 3.2 mn by an official, the University management said that of the two persons who had been interdicted in this regard, one was abroad.
AG Wickremaratne questioned the university management regarding the payments made to the husband of a dead don to the tune of Rs 7 mn. Pointing out that the complicity on the part of the University in making the payments and facilitating the process on the basis of fraudulent documents, the official pointed out that such incidents tarnished the image of the University. Referring to the incident that had happened in 2020, Wickremaratne pointed out that all payments had been made in violation of relevant laws.
The COPE also questioned the non-use of an auditorium built over six years back at a cost of R 7.5 mn and the failure on the part of the university to complete a computer network. The project launched six years back at a cost of Rs 8.3 mn had not been completed, the COPE pointed out.