#AskWatchdog - 04

#AskWatchdog - 04

@June 23, 2022

Read this article in English | සිංහල| தமிழ்

Research by Umesh Moramudali Edited by Aisha Nazim Translated by Mohammed Fairooz & Nishadi Gunatilake

You asked:

What are the recent changes to the Electricity Act and what does it mean?

Our answer:

On 09 June, the Sri Lanka Electricity Amendment Bill No. 20 of 2009 was passed in Parliament without amendments. One hundred and twenty MPs voted in favour of the Bill while 36 voted against it; and 13 MPs abstained from voting. The Bill proposed to remove restrictions on issuing the power generation license, for any person that generates more than 25 Megawatts (Mw).

This means, tenders for new power generation projects with a capacity over 25 Mw doesn't need to be awarded through a competitive bidding process. The Ceylon Electricity Board Engineering Union (CEBEU) threatened to strike demanding that the government withdraw amendments, claiming that the amendment attempts to do away with competitive bidding for power generation projects in the country. CEBEU also claimed that this amendment was brought to facilitate a 500MW wind power project in Mannar, Pooneryn proposed by Adani Green Energy Limited (AGEL) bypassing due process. The CEBEU later called off the strike.

Minister of Power and Energy,  Kanchana Wijesekara however denied allegations. He claimed the Amendments were brought to ensure that renewable energy-based power generation projects are implemented. The Minister also said that the government encourages Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) as well as local developers to invest in renewable energy generation in the country.


Meanwhile the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) claimed that these amendments open the door for corruption as it eliminates the need for competitive bidding. SJB MP Dr. Harsha de Silva proposed amendments to the Sri Lanka Electricity Amendment Bill to ensure competitive bidding, but those were rejected by majority votes in parliament. Dr. de Silva’s amendments at the committee stage proposed to do away with competitive bidding-based tendering, for power generation projects less than 10 MW.

“Due to non transparent procurement and corruption we pay so much more than necessary for electricity. One bright spot was the requirement for competition in renewable projects but had delays. Instead of fixing the problem they did away w competition. Horrible decision.” Dr. Harsha De Silva, 09 June 2022

Here is an illustration of Sri Lanka’s limited focus on renewable energy.

Sri Lanka has serious concerns regarding power generation and affordability of non-renewable energy sources given the economic crisis. We have explored this in detail before. Bottom line is that the country requires more renewable power plants. But that should not come at the cost of large-scale corruption, one of the major reasons for the current economic crisis.

This Bill was endorsed by the Speaker on 05 June, and was incorporated into the law from 15 June.

Can Sri Lanka recover stolen assets ?

Our answer:

An accusation we often hear is that politicians have stolen public money and such should be recovered. However, in order to recover stolen assets, there has to be a judicial proceeding either in Sri Lanka or abroad. It’s only upon receiving a verdict stating that the accused is guilty, or that the assets are profits off of crimes, can stolen assets be recovered.

Several laws in Sri Lanka allows to seize, confiscate, and freeze stolen assets locally. Such criminal cases in Sri Lanka takes an average of 10.2 years to complete.

The law needs to be improved to effectively recover stolen assets.

If the stolen assets are transferred to a foreign country, they can be recovered with the support of law enforcement authorities of those respective countries. This process will also take approximately 10 years. In the meantime, we don't have any comprehensive laws in place to recover assets transferred to a foreign country.

The term ‘stolen assets’ can be referred to money or assets received through bribery or corruption related to government activity. This can be a politician accepting a bribe from a contractor, instead of going through the process of competitive bidding. Another example is a politician purchasing a government asset at a lower price than its real value. Due to such a transaction, the government loses revenue while the politician gains monetary benefits.

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