Former CB Chief Cabraal clarifies Commonwealth Games bid

Former Central Bank Governor Ajith Nivard Cabraal yesterday issued the following media statement on the charges made by Public Enterprise Development Minister Kabir Hashim on irregularities concerning Sri Lanka’s bid under the previous regime to host the Commonwealth Games.

My attention has been drawn to certain media reports quoting a Senior Minister of this Government, according to which there has been an alleged misappropriation of funds in relation to the Government bid to host the Commonwealth Games 2018 in Hambantota (the bid). As a result, several persons had contacted me to obtain clarification, and therefore I decided to provide this statement. The basic facts are as follows:

n The Cabinet of Ministers granted approval to establish an Organising Committee, co-chaired by the Minister of Sports Mahindananda Aluthgamage and the Governor of the Central Bank Ajith Nivard Cabraal to facilitate and support the decision-making process in relation to the above stated bid. The Cabinet also granted approval to incorporate a limited liability company, namely CWG Hambantota 2018 Ltd., owned by the Government and chaired by the Secretary to the Ministry of Sports to, inter alia, “prepare the bid document and everything incidental to the bid process of the Commonwealth Games 2018 Hambantota” and “raise funds, promote, bid for, advertise, organise and conduct sporting events in Sri Lanka”.

n As may be envisaged, the bid involved a massive quantum of activities. This included: (a) the preparation of a comprehensive and complete bid document; (b) obtaining the services of internationally renowned bid consultants; (c) dealing with the Evaluation Commission and other high-ranking officials of the Commonwealth Games Federation; (d) liaising with a large number of inward missions of overseas Commonwealth Games Associations; (e) promoting Hambantota’s bid candidature through numerous outward missions; (f) preparing architectural, engineering, transport, environmental and other plans, as well as scale models of the proposed Games city; (g) developing internationally acceptable logistical plans for the Games; (h) participating in numerous media briefings, the bid launch and the final bid election; (i) operating a fully-fledged local office with the required administrative staff; (j) arranging local publicity and awareness programmes; and (k) carrying out a massive international promotional exercise to promote Sri Lanka and Hambantota.

n In order to successfully carry out the above challenging operations, the Organising Committee comprised the following high-ranking persons: Hon. Dilan Perera MP (then Minister of Foreign Employment and Welfare, and now State Minister of Highways), Hon. Namal Rajapaksa MP, many Ministry Secretaries, Chief of Defence Staff, Commandersof the Tri-Forces, Inspector General of Police, Representatives from the National Olympic Committee and several sports bodies, chairmen of several government institutions, chairmen and managing directors of several top private sector establishments and other leading professionals. As would be expected they served voluntarily and tirelessly to assist, coordinate and implement the multifaceted tasks involved in the bid.

n In the meantime, it would also be noted that the company, CWG Hambantota 2018 Ltd. was chaired by one of the most senior and respected civil servants of our country, then Secretary to the Ministry of Sports, Udaya Seneviratne (who yet serves as a Ministry Secretary and previously as the Secretary to the Ministry of Mahaweli Development and Environment where the Minister is President Maithripala Sirisena). Further, the company’s Board of Directors comprised top senior public officials. Together they effectively discharged the important role assigned to the company to the satisfaction and acceptance of all concerned stakeholders.

n On the financial front, proper books of accounts and records were maintained by the company and the financial statements of the company were audited by KPMG, Chartered Accountants. According to those financial statements, the company had received a net sum of Rs. 71,476,792 as government grants and a sum of Rs. 586,636,115 as direct donations from the private sector. In addition, the company had also earned Rs. 129,134 as interest income, while all payments amounting to Rs. 658,175,150 had been duly accounted for and audited. In fact, in response to a question raised in Parliament, the Chairman, CEO and Director (Finance) of CWG Hambantota (Pvt) Ltd. had jointly confirmed to the Hon. Minister of Sports on 11 February 2016 that all expenses of the company had been incurred on activities indicated in the company’s Articles of Association; all transactions were audited by KPMG; and no instance of misuse of any monies had been raised in the audit report.

nWhile it would be acknowledged that the bid of Hambantota, Sri Lanka, which competed against the Gold Coast, Australia, was lost in the final vote at 42 votes for Gold Coast and 27 votes for Hambantota, it was readily appreciated by many that Sri Lanka received a massive quantum of favourable global publicity as a result of this bid. Further, the bid helped to vigorously “re-brand” emerging Sri Lanka in the aftermath of the debilitating war of 30 years, at a comparatively modest cost to the Government of Sri Lanka.

In the context of the above indisputable facts, the allegation that a Senior Minister has now made that Rs. 700 million had been spent without any trace of the transactions by CWG Hambantota 2018 Ltd. is totally untrue and irresponsible.

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