Sri Lanka shadow FM’s high flying air hostess remanded
ECONOMYNEXT – A director of shadow foreign minister Namal Rajapaksa’s string of private companies who was remanded till next Monday turns out to be a controversial airhostess of SriLankan airlines who carried out his “special projects.”
Colombo Magistrate Lanka Jayaratne on Tuesday ordered remanding in custody of Miss Nithya Senani Samaranayake till August 22, a day after remanding MP Namal Rajapaksa himself in connection with laundering Rs45 million.
Miss Samaranayake was arrested as she was about to board a SriLankan Airlines flight as an airhostess.
Questions have been raised on how she continues to work for the national carrier despite highly adverse findings against her by the Board of Investigation headed by lawyer J. C. Weliamuna. She was assigned to MP Namal Rajapaksa to carry out “Special Projects”, although there had been no explanation of the exact nature of her work.
In June 2010, Miss Samaranayake was released from the national carrier to work for MP Namal Rajapaksa, but the airline continued to pay her, not only her basic salary, but a "productivity" allowance as well, along with other perks and promotions.
In addition, she was also paid another allowance from the Presidential Secretariat for services rendered to Namal Rajapaksa. Namal’s uncle, Nishantha Wickramasinghe, who headed SriLankan Airlines at the time, later admitted to the Weliamuna commission that the appointment of Miss Samaranayake was "irregular".
Weliamuna report recommended that a sum of over Rs4.2 million paid to Miss Samaranayake will be recovered jointly from her and the then presidential secretary Lalith Weeratunga.
However, the new SriLankan Airlines management does not appear to have taken any notice of the Weliamuna findings.
Here is the full report on Miss Samaranayake in the Weliamuna Board of Inquiry (BoI) findings.
RELEASE OF A CABIN CREW MEMBER ON THE REQUEST OF THE SECRETARY TO PRESIDENT
The BoI observed a release of a Cabin Crew member to the Presidential Secretariat which was irregular, especially since, the said Cabin Crew was purportedly released to work in the Office of MP Namal Rajapakse. Moreover, since the said Cabin Crew member was paid her full salary and half of her productivity payment from SLA, amounting to approximately Rs. 70,500/- per month, in addition to the monthly remuneration of approximately Rs. 87,500/- per month from the Presidential Secretariat, thereby providing a total monthly remuneration of approximately Rs. 158,00/- per month.
(i) By letter dated 02nd June 2010, Lalith Weeratunga, the then Secretary to the former President wrote to Manoj Gunawardena, former CEO of SLA, stating that Ms. Nithya Senani Samaranayaka, Senior Cabin Crew member, has been identified for an assignment at the Presidential Secretariat.
There is a note written by Weeratunga dated 01st June 2010 stating that, “This girl is to be appointed to the office of the President’s Secretary as a Special Projects Coordinator. Salary Rs.35,000/- per month, other facilities as appropriate.”
(ii) On 23rd June 2010 she was appointed by the Secretary to the President to the Post of Special Project Coordinator to the office of the Private Secretary to the President, under Article 41.1 of the Constitution.
She was released on the same day by SriLankan Airlines and the release letter state that she will be paid by Sri Lankan basic salary, special premium and tea allowance.
(iii) Since several payments to Ms. Samaranayaka and correspondence originated with the approval of the former Chairman Wickramasinghe, we questioned the former chairman on the release of this employee. Mr. Wickramasinghe’s position was that this lady was released to work with Namal Rajapakse MP and there was nothing he could do, despite him being connected. He admitted that the release of Ms. Samaran ayaka and promotion etc. are irregular.
(iv) It is to be noted that the Management Services Circular No.33 dated 05th April 2007 sets out the criteria for recruitment, remuneration and management of Project staff.
The payment of Rs.35,000/- by the Presidential Secretariat is consistent with a position of Junior Manager (Level D) and the qualifications for Level D is a minimum of Bachelor’s degree of Corporate Membership of a recognized Institution in the relevant field with minimum 2 years’ experience in the required area of specialization.
The BoI requested certain clarifications from the present Secretary to the President and by letter dated 17th March 2015, BoI received a reply through the Chairman of the SLA stating, inter alia, as follows:
a) No reference has been made to the department of Management Service for approval of the Post.
b) No inquiries have been made regarding payment being made by SLA since the Secretary to the President had ordered the payment of allowances.
c) No job description has been provided in respect of personal posts such as Coordinator.
(v) On the material submitted by the Presidential Secretariat, BoI found that Ms. Samaranayaka has been paid in addition to her Salary, a Fuel allowance up to Rs.22,680/- per month and a separate cash payment as a transport allowance of Rs.30,000/- per month.
Upon enquiry, Ms. Samaranayaka stated that MP Namal Rajapakse’s office provided a common transport for her colleagues and herself and that she did not have to expend any money for such transportation and the Fuel and Transport allowance amounting to Rs. 52,680/- per month was for her private use. She further stated that:
(a) There was no identifiable special project that she was attached to.
(b) She was released at the request of Namal Rajapaksa MP whom she know
(c) She could not recollect the names of officers who she had known at the Temple Trees or Presidential Secretariat except Ms. Deepa Liyanage.
(d) Ms. Samaranayaka admitted that she has not signed any attendance register during the entire period of release.
(e) She was unable to describe the exact location where she worked except the fact that it was some location in the Temple Trees and not in the Presidential Secretariat.
(f) As and when Ms. Samaranayaka wanted, she also flew as a Cabin Crew member once to London and mostly to Regional destinations and she did have “recognition” to be on roster. The promotion letter contains a provision that she is required to complete a minimum of 55 hours of flying per month.
(vi) While being ‘full time’ attached to the Presidential Secretariat she received Productivity Allowance from the SLA at the request of the Secretary to the President. She was promoted as the ‘Cabin Service Supervisor’ on 27th March 2014 and the letter issued on the 02ndJuly 2014while serving at the Presidential Secretariat to Grade C4.
On 13th January 2015 she was released back to SLA on her request. Ms. Samaranayaka admitted before us that as she was a political appointee she felt that she was part of the previous government.
(vii) At the Presidential Secretariat, Ms. Samaranayaka as Special Projects Coordinator, her legitimate entitlement, if at all, was limited to the salary of her substantive post plus allowance of 50% of the salary of her current post in the project not exceeding Rs.35,000/-.
It is revealed from the Report dated 17th March 2015 given to the BoI by the Secretary to the President that she has been paid a total of rs. 87,680/- per month consisting of Rs.35,000/- salary plus Rs.22,680/- fuel allowance and Rs.30,000/- transport allowance per month.
(viii) The BoI is of the view that Ms. Samaranayaka was not in fact released to the Presidential Secretariat but released for political work for Namal Rajapaske MP, with the full knowledge of Mr. Lalith Weeratunga and Nishantha Wickramasinghe and therefore the State should not have utilized public funds to make any payments to Ms. Samaranayaka.
(ix) According to paragraph 3 of her appointment letter at the Presidential Secretariat, her post is subject to the Financial. It appears that she was not serving the Government and therefore the actual loss to the government on this questionable remuneration, under Financial Regulation 102, is amounting to Rs. 4,284,460/-.
(x) Apart from the above, the SLA has also paid her salary and allowances for the above mentioned period while considering her as being a full time employee of the Company. BoI has found that SLA has paid her a total sum of Rs.4,133,622/- for the same period as her salary, Special premium. Tea allowance, Productivity allowance, Grooming allowance, Attendance incentive and Duty Fee Commission, which is a violation of the provisions of the Management Services Circular No.33, which is applicable to Government owned Companies.
(xi) On being questioned, Mr. Pradeepa Kakulawala, the Head of Human Resources said that Ms. Samaranayaka’s release and promotion was not in order and he knew that she was released for Namal Rajapakse MP for Tharunyata Hetak. Former Chairman went a step further said she was released for MP Namal Rajapakse.
(i) The release of Ms. Samaranayaka to Presidential Secretariat in the circumstances set out above and keeping her in that position with special perks and privileges are illegal, causing a loss to the state.
(ii) Release of Ms. Samaranayaka was a widely known fact but SLA human resources and other divisions kept a blind eye, creating a questionable corporate culture. No steps were taken by any officer, except to intentionally cover up and promote her.
(iii) There is prima facie material to investigate into for criminal liabilities of the transaction including possible misappropriation and aiding and abetting a crime based on possible criminal misappropriation/fraud.
1] The entire payments (salary and other emoluments) made to Ms. Samaranayaka be recovered jointly from Ms. Samaranayaka, Mr. Lalith Weeratunga and those who approved such payments. Steps should be taken under FR 102 of the Financial Regulations. Those who are responsible, at the Secretariat, for authorizing, approving and certifying the above unlawful payments should be dealt with according to law and under FR 105(4).
2] SLA should take appropriate actions against the officers who authorised the promotion of Ms. Samaranayaka and payments, made after her release on full time basis.
3] Criminal Investigation should be considered in respect of, inter alia, fraudulent payments/authorizations and offences against public property.