By Shamindra Ferdinando
The National Audit Office (NAO) has sought an explanation from Sports Ministry Secretary K. Mahesan regarding the sharp increase of allowances paid to the Executive Committee of Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) as well as top management level personnel in USD terms.
According to NAO’s draft report on Sri Lanka tour of Australia late last year for T 20 World Cup, the Executive Committee at a meeting held on March 15, 2022 increased daily allowances to 700 USD and 600 USD for Executive Committee members and the top management level personnel from USD 500 and USD 450, respectively.
The NAO noted that the two groups had received a staggering 75% and 71% increase ahead of the World Cup tour.
A third category of SLC employees has received a 46% percent increase in the wake of the Executive Committee raising the daily allowance from USD 400 to 475. These payments are made when food and lodging is not provided during tours in Europe and Australia as well as Africa.
The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Chief Operations Officer (COO) have been moved from the top management category to the Executive Committee at their 2019 Executive Committee meeting.
The previous increase has been announced at an Executive Committee meeting held on Oct 18, 2019, the year Shammi Silva received the appointment as President, SLC. The former Nalanda cricketer is now on his third consecutive term as SLC Chief.
The NAO pointed out that the relevant clause regarding the payments had been amended. According to a decision taken by the Executive Committee on May 23, 2014, in case accommodation was provided by SLC or any other party, the chosen were not entitled for daily allowances. However, subsequently, SLC, in 2019 and 2022 has amended that clause to enable them to receive daily allowances in USD terms even if some other host paid for them.
The Sports Secretary is yet to respond to a spate of queries raised by the NAO. The NAO delivered the draft report to Sports Secretary on June 15, 2023.
In addition to the increase in allowances, just ahead of the Australia tour, the Executive Committee members had been granted a thumping USD 2,000 entertainment allowance and USD 150 mobile telephone allowance.
The NAO has examined the situation at the SLC against the backdrop of developing economic crisis that prompted Secretary to the President Saman Ekanayake declare a 30% cut in the daily allowance granted to members of the cabinet and Ministry Secretaries with effect from March 15, 2023. The NAO has pointed out to the Sports Secretary that the daily allowance had been reduced to USD 371 from USD 530 granted by the yahapalana government on May 15, 2015.
The NAO has raised a spate of payments made to Executive Committee members last year in addition to massive expenditure incurred in the procurement of air tickets under questionable circumstances.