The Defence Service Command and Staff College (DSCSC) has spent Rs 1.1 million on "entertainment expenses" on five Sri Lankan military officers, a National Audit report revealed.
The Rs 1.1 million was spent on food and refreshments during a visit to the DSCSC in 2022 by the Defence Ministry Secretary, Chief of Defence Staff, the commanders of the Army, Navy and Air Force.
Amongst the absurd spending, it is reported that Rs 350,250 was spent on "30 black colour dining chairs" that were left unused in the DSCSC warehouse reportedly because "the colour was deemed unsuitable and mismatched to the ambience of the hostel."
Sri Lanka's Ministry of Defence have refuted the report and claimed that "there is no truth behind media reports" about the overspending.
“It is a military norm for the Defence Secretary, Chief of Defence Staff or the Commanders of the Armed Forces to have refreshments at the conclusion of their lecture with the participants of about 200 personnel which may include student officers, directing and permanent staff members providing an opportunity to expand their knowledge," the MoD said in a statement.
“Thus, it shall be noted that such expenditures are not incurred only to host the Secretary of Defence, Chief of Defence Staff or the Tri Forces Commanders and such media reports may mislead public perception,” it added.
The revelation comes as Sri Lanka's economy tries to recover from it's worst financial crisis. In 2022, Sri Lanka declared bankruptcy and defaulted on its international debt.
At the end of last year, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said Sri Lanka's public debt was at 128 percent of its gross domestic product. Sri Lanka received the first $330m tranche of the IMF’s nearly $3bn bailout package.
The economic crisis sparked mass protests as the island faced severe shortage of fuel, food and medicines. The protests led to former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to flee the island.
In the World Bank's October 2023 update on Sri Lanka, Faris Hadad-Zervos, the World Bank Country Director for Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka said:
"Current efforts to mobilise tax revenue should be coupled with continued reforms towards transparency of expenditures to build public confidence and to deliver better public services."