By Chandeepa Wettasinghe
The Central Bank is now involved in the development of a new National Payment Platform (NPP) for digital financial transactions under existing legislation, after recent efforts to set up the platform outside the purview of the Central Bank hit a brick wall.
Telecommunication and Digital Infrastructure Ministry Secretary Wasantha Deshapriya, speaking to Mirror Business said his ministry and its technology implementation unit, the Information Communication Technology Agency (ICTA), are in the process of submitting a proposal to the Central Bank.
“It is being revisited by the Ministry and ICTA and we are making sure that we will be submitting an application to the Central Bank. The Central Bank will then go by the Payment and Settlement Systems Act and get in, and put it in their framework. That is the plan,” he said.
He was speaking on the sidelines of the second Sri Lanka Broadband Forum jointly organized by his ministry and the Chinese ICT manufacturing and service provider Huawei, in Colombo, yesterday. According to Deshapriya, there is already a robust line of communication between ICTA and the Central Bank for the development of a new NPP.
He said that the Central Bank and ICTA will start re-tendering for service providers to develop the new NPP.
“The original setup will not be implemented. They (Central Bank) want to restart it,” Deshapriya said. The original NPP development process had started in mid-2015, and over the course of the past two years three IT service providers had been chosen as facilitation partners to develop the consumer end of the platform, while another leading IT company was chosen to build the core NPP.
Critics such as Former Central Bank Deputy Governor W. A. Wijewardena had been instrumental in pointing out the risk in creating a NPP outside the purview of the Central Bank, which would further undermine the independence and authority of the monetary policy regulator.
Former Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake, who was forced to resign as a cabinet minister last month due to his alleged links to the Central Bank bond scandal, and who had repeatedly attempted to make the Central Bank subservient to the Finance Ministry during his tenure, had endorsed the original NPP project through the 2016 budget.
Former ICTA CEO/Managing Director Muhunthan Canagey had led the development of the original NPP.
He was forced to resign by President Maithripala Sirisena last month, after Canagey picked fights with a powerful media group over the President providing it with spectrum outside a transparent spectrum distribution process, which led to increased scrutiny over Canagey’s involvement with the original NPP.
A controversial private sector professional and several other individuals are also speculated to have had a hand in the original NPP project outside the Central Bank, in order to derive private profits at the cost of the citizens of the country. Following Canagey’s resignation, National Policies and Economic Affairs Deputy Minister Dr. Harsha de Silva, called for a stop in the development of the original NPP last month, and he said that he had repeatedly called for the development to be stopped earlier.
Pic by Kithsiri De Mel