Paying Ranil’s bills: Govt. asked to pay over Rs. 120 m to foreign consultancy firm

Former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who headed the United National Front (UNF)-led Yahapalana Government, has left bills amounting to millions of rupees to be paid by the new Government headed by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

Several bills including payments due to a foreign consultancy firm and for air travel have now come to light with payments now being sought from the Government.

The Opposition Leader’s Office has reportedly forwarded a letter to the Ministry of Industrial Export and Investment Promotion on 20 February 2020 requesting for funds amounting to $ 715,000 (approximately over Rs. 120 million) to settle a payment due to a foreign consultancy firm that had been hired by then Prime Minister Wickremesinghe for its services during Wickremesinghe’s visit to China at the time.

The letter has been handed over to the Secretary to the Ministry of Investment Promotion to recommend further action following consultations with the Ministry of Finance.

Wickremesinghe had engaged in this respective Chinese tour in April 2016 and has rendered the services of Northern Star Consulting Corporation Ltd. through an agreement signed between the said company and former Secretary to the Ministry of Development Strategies and International Trade Chandani Wijewardana.

It is learnt that according to the said agreement, a sum of $ 65,000 had to be paid as a retainer to the consultancy firm on a monthly basis.

In line with the agreement, the Ministry had on 18 August 2016 got the Sri Lankan mission in Beijing to make a payment of $ 65,000 to the consultancy company. The respective agreement had been valid till 17 February 2017.

On 3 April 2019, Wickremesinghe had even submitted a cabinet paper seeking approval to pay a total sum of $ 715,000 to Northern Star Consulting Corporation Ltd.

The cabinet paper had sought approval to permit the Sri Lankan mission in Beijing to make the payment of $ 715,000 to Northern Star.

It has been further revealed that the foreign consultancy firm had been tasked to organise bilateral meetings in China between the Sri Lankan and Chinese officials. Also, the company was assigned to organise investment promotions meetings and a conference promoting the Belt and Road Initiative in May 2017.

However, United National Party (UNP) Leader Wickremesinghe’s foreign consultancy firm has now sought its delayed payment and the Ministry has been requested to make the funding allocations to pay the Rs. 120 million to the foreign consultancy firm.

Meanwhile, it had also surfaced that a sum of over Rs. 1 million had not been settled for helicopter rides that had been booked by the Prime Minister’s Office during Wickremesinghe’s tenure in office.

It is learnt that there are bills amounting to Rs. 1,855,944 that are yet to be settled for helicopter rides undertaken by the Prime Minister’s Office and ministries under Wickremesinghe’s purview at the time.