Unpaid bills delay road projects
Construction of roads and highways, a penchant of the Rajapaksa
regime, which turned into a well-spring to amass wealth, ran into
serious difficulty when the government was left with a hefty outstanding
bill of Rs. 38.178 billion to be paid to local contractors for work done
up to December 31, 2014.
Working Director, Road Development Authority (RDA), Keith Bernard
said there were new bills to the tune of Rs. 17.2 billion from December
31, 2014 to May this year.
“The outstanding amounts on the Katunayake Expressway, preliminary
work of the Northern Expressway and the Outer Circular Highway phase one
and two were staggering. We had to first get a grip of what had taken
place, the scope of work, how far it had been completed, financial
commitments and ways to settle contractors,” said Bernard.
“This took around two months and it is during this period that the
new government came under fire for bringing development projects to a
halt,” he said.
The Working Director said the RDA was saddled with huge unpaid bills.
Despite the burden heaped on the Authority by the previous regime
through the misuse of funds, bills to the tune of Rs.40 billion were
paid by new government from January to-date.The former regime came under
a barrage of criticism for misappropriation of funds under the guise of
Experts said that the astronomical cost of the Katunayake Expressway
on which the former regime had spent around Rs. 1.8 billion per
kilometre was the most costly highway in the world. The cost per
kilometre of the 26km expressway had been doubled enabling officials
associated with the regime to swindle around Rs. 1 billion per km. The
regime was dislodged for its scale of bribery, corruption and nepotism.
The new Minister of Highways took steps to settle the outstanding
amounts in a judicious manner and resume work on road projects under a
proper transparent plan.As of now all contractors have been paid for
work completed and under progress by solving the working capital
problems and bank commitments, Bernard said.
He said close to the 2015 presidential election, road construction
work was awarded to associates of the regime with no competitive
Contracts were awarded in an unsolicited manner. There was a high
concentration of power and control in the former RDA chairman.
Decision-making was confined to a few although there were managers and
other officials in the RDA. There was mismanagement and lack of
“Even though there were around 600 engineers it was the contractors
and consultants who dictated terms. In certain contracts, contractors
decided which roads to construct and they made estimates. Most of the
contracts were signed with little negotiation,” the Working Director
said. Steps have been taken to develop rural roads by which the
villagers can integrate into the mainstream economy so that the benefits
of development will trickle down to them.
The Government with Asian Development Bank funding is fast tracking
work on integrated rural road projects. Dilapidated roads and bridges
will be renovated.
Work on the Southern Expressway extension which connects Godagama and
Hambantota has resumed. Work on the Outer Circular Highway phase two has
been completed and by the middle of this month the section between
Kaduwela and Kadawatha is due to be opened.
“Plans are being finalised to launch construction work on the Outer
Circular Highway phase 3 between Kadawatha and Kerawalapitiya. The
mobilisation fees has been released to the contractors and work is
expected to begin soon with certain modifications to rationalise cost.
The Government has decided to commission the Central Expressway
before the end of 2015 subject to revision of scope to optimise
Funding for the project has been pledged by China Exim Bank, ADB and
JICA. Finances will be supplemented with local funding.