COPE unearths serious Lotteries Board fraud

The Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) has uncovered serious fraud at the Development Lotteries Board.

The COPE committee headed by Professor Charitha Herath reviewed the Auditor General’s reports from 2017 and 2018 and the current performance of the Development Lottery Board.

It was revealed during the meeting that in 2008, a taxi worth Rs. 8,095,000 was taken over by a driving agency and registered in the name of the council by the then president without the approval of any council official.

The COPE committee has investigated the vehicle’s disappearance at length since then.

The Development Lotteries Board had to pay almost Rs. 16,190,000 to the company for non-payment of the vehicle. The total loss as of December 31, 2018, including the legal fees incurred by the Board for this matter, was Rs. 26,634,185.

The current chairman of the board said a civil action has been filed to recover the loss as directed by the Ministry of the Attorney General.

COPE also observed that a studio built at a cost of Rs. 38.75 million for the purpose of recording development lottery draw schemes, has not been used for its intended purpose since 2015.

Furthermore, the COPE committee noted that the Development Lotteries Board unilaterally breached an agreement to lease a building at 234 Vauxhall Street to the Board and was unable to recover the amount of Rs. 5,700,000 owed to the Council for 14 years.

Council officials said the building was leased by the Ministry of Commerce when the Development Lottery Council was under the Ministry of Commerce and the Ministry instructed its council to acquire the building.

The COPE committee also drew attention to the allocation of official vehicles for 08 unqualified non-carrier owners as per Public Enterprises Circular No. PED/01/2015 of 25th May 2015 and payment of Rs. 2,590,545 for fuel allowances in 2017 and 2018.

Officials said these vehicles were donated with the approval of the Development Lotteries Board when it was under the Presidential Secretariat and the ministry then ordered in a letter to suspend the supply of these vehicles.

The President of COPE instructed the Secretary of the Ministry of Finance to carry out a formal investigation and to send a report to the commission with all the relevant documents. (Colombo Official Gazette)

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