A wide range of racquets to benefit CEB Engineers – The Island

Ifam Nizam

The Ceylon Electricity Commission finances most of its transmission and distribution infrastructure development projects, such as the construction of new transmission lines, transmission and distribution substations, etc., using loan funds obtained from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and international financing institutions such as Japan. are being implemented. Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

These ‘concessional’ loans are guaranteed by the government and projects funded by these loan packages are implemented through a specially established Project Management Unit (PMU).

Engineers who belong to PMU are given special facilities and financial incentives. This is done with the understanding that they will work outside normal working hours and on weekends to complete the project on time and within the allotted budget. and a significant need to improve the country’s transmission and distribution infrastructure.

Almost all of these projects have titles with words such as “green energy”, “clean energy” or “green power” to indicate that these investments are primarily aimed at using renewable energy. I’m here.

But these projects are seldom completed within the timeframes and budgets given, according to senior officials from the Ministry of Power and Energy. For this reason, not only are countries often missing out on the expected return on these investments, but governments also suffer huge losses from commitment fees paid to lending institutions.

Once project funds are committed through a loan agreement, the government must pay this fee to the lending institution. This is usually calculated as a percentage of the loan amount or “commitment amount”. Especially in a situation where there is a serious shortage of foreign currency, it becomes a heavy burden for the government.

This “initial cost” is billed at a lower percentage if the loan funds are paid within the original term of the loan. Therefore, if the CEB does not complete the project on time, the government will end up paying a higher commitment fee and be forced to seek an extension of the original disbursement period, thus incurring further costs.

Even more alarming than the long delays in project completion is that some completed projects turned out to be wasted investments of foreign money given to the country.Former CEB Chairman MMC Ferdinand of why the new 132kV transmission line between Ambalangoda and Ambalangoda was completed in 2017 at a cost of Rs. 1,500 million remained useless to this day.

Sunday Island understands that the CEB’s system control center can turn on this transmission line only when the Samanalawewa hydroelectric plant is operating at full capacity. Bottleneck in the southern network of the country. The southern region has experienced severe transmission capacity limitations for decades.The CEB general manager said commissioning of several new transmission lines currently under construction would make the Ambalangoda-Ghor transmission line operational. It is understood that he responded to the chairman’s question by stating that .

The 220kV transmission line from Panipitiya to Porpitiya via Paducca is another example of a costly planning mistake by the CEB. Construction of this long transmission line began in 2015 but was delayed due to a number of issues, including public outcry and lawsuits by some landowners. However, the ADB-funded project was eventually completed in late 2021 (after more than five years of delay). ), it was discovered that power was flowing in the wrong direction when the transmission line was switched on, causing an overload of the Panipitiya substation. Therefore, this power line is also currently left idle. CEB planners explained that power would flow in the right direction once several other transmission lines (built under another financing package and already delayed for years) were completed. It is understood that

Taking part in a national television debate after the nationwide power outage on August 17, 2020, the then CEB general manager said the unavailability of this critical transmission line had left the CEB with hours of unavailability. was the main factor that prevented recovery. A huge waste of money was the transmission substation at Kappalthurai in the Eastern Province, which cost the country more than 2 million rupees. His ADB loan fund of 2.5 billion. This facility will remain idle for the foreseeable future as there is no high demand for electricity in the area or no future increase in demand.

According to CEB employees, the existing Trincomalee substation, located about 11 km from the new substation, has sufficient capacity to supply the region’s power needs for many years to come. Meanwhile, CEB has also invested heavily to increase the capacity of Trincomalee Substation. It is also understood that the CEB’s project department has maintained several non-functioning PMUs for many years and spends a lot of money on rental project offices. Large project staff, even if associated project funding has not been secured.

CEB employees say that project directors and their engineers who belong to these “white elephants” will enjoy all benefits, including a project allowance (an additional amount equal to one-third of their monthly salary) and a luxury SUV. I am dissatisfied. A powerful union of CEB engineers. They argue that CEB management is not responsible for project managers responsible for long delays, but is allowed to continue enjoying all benefits. According to a senior engineer who works as a consultant for project-related work, this “job security” guarantee acts as a strong incentive for project engineers to prolong the project. Foreign-funded projects have been a steady source of luxury vehicles for CEB engineers.

Most of the vehicles used by CEB’s top engineers, including the general manager, are offered under various foreign investment projects. This is because existing government guidelines do not allow the purchase of large-displacement, high-end SUVs, including European premium brands such as Audi and Mercedes-Benz. CEB employees complain that the Ministry of Power and Energy turns a blind eye to these wrongdoings, mainly because project managers and most of their project engineers are cadres in powerful engineering unions.

They say that even the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCSL), which has a legal obligation to prevent the CEB from making unnecessary or wasteful investments in its transmission infrastructure, has spent billions of dollars on the It claims that it has never questioned the CEB regarding idle assets. public money in rupees. A wide range of racquets to benefit CEB Engineers – The Island

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