News

Audit on Meteorology Department: Audit reveals missing radar

 

  • Doppler radar worth Rs. 9 m misplaced at Gongala
  • Ongoing Police probe into radar incident: Met Dept.

 

By Maheesha Mudugamuwa

 

A Doppler Radar System (DRS) worth Rs. 9 million, which had been installed at the Gongala Meteorology Department facility, has been misplaced after the establishment was handed over to the Sri Lanka Army for temporary usage, according to the National Audit Office (NAO).

In its latest financial audit carried out on the Meteorology Department, the NAO had found out that even though 12 years had lapsed, the Rs. 402.8 million worth meteorological establishment and its radar system at Gongala was yet to be completed.  

According to the NAO, equipment valued at Rs. 9.1 million has been misplaced, with Rs. 4.9 million added to the Damages and Losses Register of the Department.

In its response to the NAO during the audit, the Accounting Officer of the Met Department has stated that the remaining goods and building with the tower had been handed over for temporary usage to Army officers who had been retained there, as per the instructions of the Secretary of the Ministry of Defence.

According to the NAO report, the military officers responsible for this misplacement have also not been identified and the NAO has recommended taking action to identify the officers responsible.

It is learnt that the Ministry of Disaster Management had entered a Trust Fund Agreement with the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) on 24 May 2007 for the installation of an automatic DRS in Sri Lanka.

Accordingly, the contract for the procurement of radar equipment had been awarded to an American company by the WMO.

Although the work relating to the installation of the system had commenced on 10 October 2012, construction work had been delayed owing to a number of factors, including the discovery of the presence of a layer of rock when laying the foundation for construction, due to the lack of a soil test.

Parts of the damaged equipment had been shipped back to the American manufacturing plant but it had been concluded that the cost for the repairs would be too high. It had also been impossible to obtain insurance compensation for the damaged parts.

Meanwhile, a report issued by the NAO’s Performance Audit Unit has revealed that the location of the DRS was unsafe.

Since a DRS is an essential requirement in weather forecasting, the Met Department had intended to install the DRS after repairing the parts.

However, the NAO has observed that these expensive parts were not safe as there had been incidents of theft of some parts and other items in January 2016.

Compounding matters, non-operating of air conditioners, rainwater leaks, and wall moisture had been recorded as per the observation reports.

The report has also revealed that equipment parts valued at Rs. 8,747,765 had been stolen on 29 January 2016 and a committee had been appointed on 12 February 2016 to conduct a preliminary investigation into the matter.

“However, there was no detailed investigation report. The site was at risk of thieves even after that, as stated in the observation report prepared on the inspection of Gongala on 17 May 2018. It was observed that attention had not been paid by the Department to the safety of the equipment and other items until the parts were sent to the production plant for repair,” the NAO has stated.

When The Sunday Morning contacted Met Department Director General Athula Karunanayake, he said that there was an ongoing Police investigation into the DRS incident and therefore he would not be able to comment on the NAO report or anything attached to the DRS. 

“This incident occurred many years ago and I was not the DG back then. I have not even visited the place,” he said. 

Attempts to contact Military Spokesman Brigadier Nilantha Premaratne regarding the allegations levelled against Army personnel proved futile.