Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa has denied allegations that the original estimate for the first phase of the Norochcholai coal power project had been ‘bumped up’ to USD 455 million from USD 300 million to pocket the extra money.
Rajapaksa’s office noted that at a media briefing last Friday, former president Chandrika Kumaratunga alleged that members of the Rajapaksa government had earned a commission of Rs. 15 billion from the Norochcholai coal power project.
The same charge was made by honorable minister Champika Ranawaka in his book ‘Alapalu Arthikaya’ released during the presidential election campaign, where he said that the original estimate for the first phase of the Norochcholai project was USD 300 million but that within a few months it had been bumped up to USD 455 million with the insinuation that the difference of USD 155 million (more than Rs. 15 billion) was pocketed by the Rajapaksas.
Rajapaksa’s office said that the original estimate for Phase I of the Norochcholai power plant submitted on 9 June 2005 was 398 million USD – not 300 million as stated by minister Ranawaka.
“After discussions in July 2005, the estimate was formally revised to USD 471 million on 30 August 2005. This revision took place during Mrs Kumaratunga’s tenure and minister Ranawaka’s charge of bumping up the estimate so as to pocket the difference can apply only to her government,” Rajapaksa’s office said in a statement.
The statement added that after the Rajapaksa government came into power, a cabinet appointed negotiating committee comprising of Messrs S.B.Divaratne, Lakshman R.Watawala and M.M.C. Ferdinando negotiated a lower price of USD 450 million.
Rajapaksa’s office said that further debate on the allegations can continue once Mrs Kumaratunga explains to the public how the estimate for the Norochcholai power plant went up from 398 to 477 million USD in less than three months between June and August 2005. (Colombo Gazette)