ECONOMYNEXT – The government’s lead Information Technology Agency came under the microscope at the Parliamentary Committee on Public Enterprise (COPE) yesterday December 8, and the members held that the e-Pension Project initiated by the agency is “a complete failure.”
In a press release issued by Parliament today, COPE said the LKR232mn project given to the Information and Communication Technology Agency (ICTA) could not be implemented and was abandoned on November 1, 2013.
The statement said that ICTA was “entrusted with the responsibility of developing the hardware and software for the project using government funding to initially provide pensions online to the pensioners of the Western Province covering the District Secretariat, the Armed Forces, the Department of Prisons, the Department of Railways and the Department of Civil Defense.”
The project could not go ahead because of “various software and hardware issues” the statement said and ICTA had spent LKR 278.54mn on it.
In another incident, COPE said the Google Loon project, implemented by ICTA to provide internet access island-wide wasn’t executed, and LKR1.8mn spent to release equipment from the customs. It also said LKR6.4mn was spent for project promotions.
These issues were raised at the COPE Committee chaired by Prof Charitha Herath.
Minister Mahinda Amaraweera, State Ministers Susil Premajayantha, Indika Anuruddha and Members of Parliament Eran Wickramaratne, Jagath Pushpakumara, Premnath C. Dolawaththa, S. M. Marikkar, Patali Champika Ranawaka and Shanakiya Rasamanickam were in attendance.
COPE disclosed that LKR850.47mn had been approved and LKR148.33mn spent for the project “Lanka Government Network” (LGN) launched by ICTA in 2016 with the aim of establishing an efficient government service by connecting government institutions through a network. The committee revealed that the progress of the project was 17%.
“The aforesaid failures were strongly condemned by the COPE Committee where MP Patali Champika Ranawaka questioned if the I.C.T.A was planning to launch more than 500 other projects while showing such failure,” the statement said.
It was also revealed that the LKR32.5mn spent on the procurement of the project by the National Intellectual Property Office under the name ‘e-NIPO’ has been utilized by the agency to pay salaries of its officials. Therefore, the COPE Chairman pointed out the need for formulating a formal mechanism to regulate such financial matters.
It was disclosed that the project launched under the name ‘e-Local Authorities’ which had failed was re-launched in 2016. Although Rs. 39 million had been spent as at the 31st of December, the fact that it had not been included in the performance reports since then was subjected to the strong displeasure of the committee.
The COPE chairman also revealed that the 2017 corporate plan which was made at a cost of Rs. 2,737,000 has been discarded without being forwarded for approval. Thus, the COPE chairman directed ICTA to conduct an investigation from 2003-2019 and provide with a report on this regard.
The COPE Committee was also dissatisfied with the recruitment of officials under contract basis to senior positions of ICTA. Therefore, the COPE Committee pointed out the need to create several key positions on a permanent basis along with a proper hierarchy within the agency.
Taking legal action against any officials who have committed any form of corruption or wrongdoing was also recommended by the COPE Chairman. (Colombo, December 9, 2020)
Reported by Arjuna Ranawana