UNP yesterday informed Parliament that any future government which the party would form will cease to honour the $ 400 Asian Development Bank (ADB) loan offered for the Colombo South Port Terminal Project or any other loan that may be raised by the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) for the purpose if any corrupt or unlawful practice is observed in the tender process to select a contractor.
The party informed this decision just hours before the tender Board was to meet to make the final selection. Tender Board was due to meet last evening.
UNP MP John Amaratunga who moved an adjournment motion on the South Port Terminal Project and the Breakwater project in the House yesterday charged that some fraudulent and corrupt practices have taken place in the evaluation stages to accommodate a `favoured` tenderer without taking into due consideration the core requirement of generating adequate income to repay the loan.
He alleged that the SLPA Chairman had acted in suspicious manner and had violated his authority to facilitate the reward of the South Terminal of Colombo Port to a bidder of his preference. `The ADB is watching this situation because they have made an assessment of the tenderers and are aware of the best party to handle the project,` he said.
Mr. Amaratunga urged the government to whatever evaluations done so far and take into consideration the concerns of ADB and award the tender to a company which can bring the highest revenue to the country after building the South Terminal.
While stating that the government had made a monumental blunder in awarding the tender to expand the Queen Elizabeth Container Terminal to South Asia Gateway Terminal (SAGT) who was not able to generate sufficient income to repay its loan and maintain the terminal and the equipment to international standards.` SAGT had grabbed the portion of business to the government owned Jaya Terminal.
The UNP MP said it is important to determine whether the bidding company is able to generate sufficient fund to repay the ADB loan, whether it is going to control Sri Lankan traffic and maintain current hub status and divert containers to their existing terminals.
JVP MP Sunil Handunetty who joined the debate charged that both UNP and the government are using the Parliament to hold business discussions after changing the day`s order. `This is more or less a discussion to select a contractor before the Tender board meeting after bringing in an agent of one bidder into the House,` he said. The MP was referring to a foreigner at the visitors gallery who was identified an official of Association of Chartered Shippers.
Mr. Handunetty was of the opinion that the best option is to handover the project to SLPA it self rather than giving it to a private company. `The engineers in SLPA are capable of handling this project,` he said.
Minister of Ports and Aviation Chmal Rajapaksa said he will not defend any wrong doer and assured that no one would be allowed to interfere with the tender board.. He informed the house that the construction work of the project would start in November this year while tender procedures and other formalities would be completed in September.
Minister explained that of the out of the estimated total cost of $400 million the ADB will provide $ 300 million in the form of a loan. `The remaining $100 million will have to be financed by SLPA he said. He assured that Hambantota Port development project would begin on the 15th and would be completed within three and a half years.