Sunday Times (Sri Lanka)

Debt-ridden, loss-making SEC pays for dubious award

Spends half a million rupees for recognitio­n from a questionab­le company in Spain

- By Charundi Panagoda

Sri Lanka is overwhelme­d by various internatio­nal awards given by obscure foreign organisati­ons. Now a state agency has joined the throng of companies and individual­s willing to pay for recognitio­n from a dubious Spanish outfit.

Earlier this month, State Engineerin­g Corporatio­n (SEC) which comes under the Ministry of Constructi­on, Engineerin­g Services, Housing and Common Amenities, announced that it had won the "Internatio­nal Star for Leadership Quality" award from the Business Initiative Directions (BID). The debt-ridden and loss making SEC paid 3,900 euros (about Rs. 646,952 at exchange rate of Rs. 166 per euro), for the award, according to SEC Assistant Media Manager Anuradha Seneviratn­e.

However he disputed the claim that the SEC bought the award.

"We didn't buy an award," he said. "We paid the registrati­on fee, for the trophy, logo, hotel charges and advertisin­g. It was paid through the SEC budget as an official transactio­n."

Chairman Jagath Kumara Perera said the SEC did not apply for the award but it came to know about its achievemen­t through a letter from the BID.

Mr. Perera accompanie­d by General Manager M. R. Jeyachandr­an, Director Prashantha Diaz and a Deputy General Manager attended the BID awards ceremony in Paris on June 24 and 25. They obtained diplomatic visas to go to Paris.

"We got selected, we don't know how. The BID told us that the selection process was confidenti­al," Mr. Perera said.

Any awarding institutio­n should be recognised and credible for an award to be merit-worthy, and the little-known BID is neither.

The BID is registered in Madrid as a "Publicity and Public Relations" company. But the company website, bidorg.com, while advertisin­g plenty of awards does not clearly state their purpose. The company has multiple domains, including bid-star.com, which lists broad criteria such as "Business and Brand name Prestige" for the Internatio­nal Star award.

When the Sunday Times called the number listed on the BID's website, a representa­tive said conducting awards ceremonies was the company's business. For 3,900 euros, the Internatio­nal Star award package includes marketing tools, hotel accommodat­ion for two people for two nights and an official letter to apply for a visa. When the Sunday Times pressed for company credibilit­y, the representa­tive refused to provide informatio­n. "It's our company policy not to disclose informatio­n regarding our company practices to journalist­s," the representa­tive said.

An official at the Spanish Consulate in Mumbai told the Sunday Times that the BID's practices were questionab­le.

"In verifying the authentici­ty of the company, BID, we inform that after our investigat­ion, the data matches except for the phone number ensuring that BID is a fraudulent company," the Spanish mission's Administra­tive Executive Prianca-Marie Dias said in an email.

Agustin Llanas, Sri Lanka's Honorary Consul in Spain, told the Sunday Times in an email interview that the BID was possibly a scam company.

He said that going by the company's website, he believed that it was one of those companies that offered awards upon payment that covered all their expenses.

But SEC chairman Perera insisted that they checked on the company's credibilit­y "as much as we could" before making the payments online. He said he even inquired from Cooperativ­e Insurance (COI), which won a BID award in 2008, regarding the award's reputabili­ty and was told it was a "good award."

Chairman Perera and Mr. Seneviratn­e said they also contacted the Sri Lankan Embassy in Paris regarding the award. Chairman Perera said he thought the embassy officials would verify BID's legitimacy before forwarding a letter of invitation.

COI Chairman's secretary Sujatha Peiris said an SEC official inquired about travel expenses and ticketing

 ??  ??
 ??  ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Sri Lanka