Right to Information Transparency and corruption in public service

What happened to the Covid-19 funds?

Rahul Samantha Hettiarachchi

The economies of many countries in the world are collapsing due to the Covid-19 pandemic, this is especially true of developing countries. For that reason, those countries need the full support of their citizens as well as foreign aid. 

Sri Lanka has also received assistance from many countries and world organizations. By the end of September, the Sri Lankan government received over US$300 million in aid to help fight Covid-19. In addition, the government has also received US$138 million in loans by 30th July 2020. The Ministry of Health revealed this on 2nd September 2020 according to the information act.

The Presidential Secretariat released information regarding the ‘Itukama’ social security fund on 15th March 2021 in response to the right to information application filed on 1st December 2020. Accordingly, it was revealed that the remaining balance of the fund was over Rs.1.61 billion. The Secretariat did not reply when they were asked how much had been received for the fund, but they stated that the cash receipts had not been classified. However, they also stated that the fund received no foreign loans or donations. Therefore it seems that all the money received by the ‘Itukama’ social security fund were from local donors. 

The Sri Lankan Government received a total of Rs.58.7 billion as foreign loans and aids in addition to the Rs.1.61 billion raised through the ‘Itukama’ social security fund to fight the pandemic. It was revealed that the Sri Lankan government had over Rs.60 billion in foreign and local aid and loans by December 2020 to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

The government has received US$1.9 million from the WHO, US$212,260 from the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), US$125,000 from UNICEF, US$300 million from the Asian Development Bank (ADB), and US$1,194,424 from the Global Fund as foreign donations. The government has also received US$10 million from the ADB and US$128 million from the World Bank as loans. Therefore, the Ministry of Health information clarifies that Sri Lanka has received over US$319 million, equivalent to over Rs.58 billion in the recent past.

Rs.15 billion for PCR testing

The Sri Lankan government has conducted 4,119,912 PCR tests by 3rd July 2021, spending over Rs.15 billion. The government has utilized a loan from the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank and some money from the government for PCR testing.

Also, it is revealed that Rs.100 million from the ‘Itukama’ fund has been allocated to the Ministry of Health for PCR testing. According to the Presidential Secretariat, a further Rs.40 million has already been given to the Ministry of Health by the local company SLINTEC.

Also, over Rs.3.41 million has been provided to modify the PCR testing laboratory in the University of Sri Jayawardanapura, and over Rs.2.5 million has been provided to modify the PCR testing laboratory in the University of Jaffna.

It is revealed that Rs.100 million from the ‘Itukama’ fund has been allocated for health care awareness programmes, and over Rs.24.3 million of that amount has already been spent, according to the information obtained from the Ministry of Health on 10th February 2021. That money was given to a company called TRIAD (PVT) Ltd. When questioned in this regard, the secretary of the Ministry of Health Mr. S. H. Munasinghe stated that Rs.67.5 million has already been taken from the ‘Itukama’ fund for this purpose.

Rs.3.7 billion for quarantine purposes

From the start of the pandemic until 3rd July 2021, Sri Lanka has quarantined over 160,000 personnel. This quarantine process was carried out by the Army together with some other institutions. The Secretary of the Ministry of Health stated that about Rs.3.7 billion had already been spent as construction costs, food and other facilities for the workers to construct quarantine centres.

According to the information obtained from the president’s secretary’s office, about Rs.38 million from the ‘Itukama’ fund has also been spent for quarantine purposes.   

                

From the information obtained from the Ministry of Health, it is revealed that about Rs.3.5 million from the ‘Itukama’ fund has been spent on Covid-19 related research. In addition, Rs.86.5 million has been allocated to the Ministry of Health for transportation and fuel costs and over Rs.38 million of that amount has already been obtained. 

Also, Rs. 41.5 million has been taken from the ‘Itukama’ fund for printing the vaccination cards, according to the secretary of the Ministry of Health. When questioned in this regard, the secretary also stated that the State Press printed the cards.

However, when analyzing the above data it seems that except for buying the Covid-19 vaccine from foreign and local loans and funds, including the ‘Itukama’ fund, the government has already spent over Rs.18 billion for other expenses. It is 24% of the country’s total funds and loans, including the ‘Itukama’ fund.

Other than these expenses, the Ministry of Health and the Presidential Secretariat have not yet responded to the information requests of vaccine expenses and other expenses related to Covid-19 prevention.  

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The views and opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the Sri Lanka Press Institute.

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