By Nirmala Kannangara
Transport Minister and SLFP Kalutara District Parliamentarian Kumar Welgama has been maintaining a coordinating office at Bandaragama to meet his party supporters at the cost of the Sri Lanka Transport Board (SLTB), alleges employees.
At a time when the SLTB has failed to pay the head office employees their September salary on time, the cost of living (CoL) arrears for the past four years and the gratuity payments, all due to lack of funds, the employees ask how the SLTB could afford to maintain another office for Minister Welgama in his electorate at Bandaragama if the Board is facing a financial crisis.
The Sunday Leader is in possession of letters sent by the Chairman, SLTB to the relevant departments ordering them to make arrangements to rent out the selected Bandaragama building for a sub office and to provide the necessary furniture and equipment before it was opened on June 11, 2010. “Our dues could not be paid due to lack of money. But however they maintain a coordinating office for the Transport Minister at Bandaragama paying a monthly rent of Rs.20,000. In addition the cost of the electricity bill, the office furniture and all other office requirements are being met by the SLTB which amounts to an enormous amount,” employees claimed.
They further charged that Welgama was using the Bandaragama office as one of his party offices in the district to meet with supporters in and around Bandaragama.
When contacted, SLTB Chairman M. D. Bandusena maintained that a coordinating office at Bandaragama was opened at the request of the Kalutara Regional Manager (RM) to house the Kalutara region audit officers.
Meanwhile Minister Welgama said that while the Bandaragama office was opened to house the Kalutara region SLTB auditors he also meets his party supporters at this office on Sundays. “I am a hard worker and I have only Sunday as a free day. So I make it a point to meet my supporters at this office on Sundays. So what’s wrong with that? I have been given all the powers by the SLTB Act. I do not want to misuse public funds for my personal use as I am born rich and have enough wealth. Those who are in the political arena know that I am an honourable and clean man,” Minister Welgama claimed.
But contradicting the SLTB Chairman and Minister Welgama; Coordinating Secretary (Bandaragama) to the Transport Minister, Pradeshiya Sabha Member – Bandaragama Devendra Perera said that there are only two employees working at the Bandaragama office. “Only my self and another person work at this office and the Minister comes here on Sundays to meet the public,” he said.
When asked as to who provides the stationary for the Bandaragama office, Perera said that the necessary items are provided by the Bandaragama Pradeshiya Sabha. However The Sunday Leader is in possession of a letter sent by Perera requesting the Minister to supply the required stationery to which the Minister has put a minute asking the SLTB Chairman to provide the requirements to the Bandaragama office.