The prime objective of the Urban Settlement Development Authority (USDA) is the development of housing and physical environment of the low-income communities residing in urban areas under a holistic urban and habitat development approach in order to uplift their living standard and to empower the target group socially, economically and culturally.
We are very pleased that we were able to secure many achievements in the year 2021 as well. The standout achievement during the year was the resolution of matters pertaining to the legal status of the USDA Fund which has been a thorny issue for the Authority with the intervention of the Legal Draft Division of the Treasury.
Strengthening the Authority and making it an independent entity not reliant upon the Treasury through the Fund are our twin objectives for the future and I am happy to note the unwavering commitment of our staff for the attainment of these objectives.
One of the major obstacles encountered by the USDA was the non-availability of lands. Securing the approval of the Cabinet of Ministers for mix development projects for underutilized post office premises subsequent to discussions with the Department of Posts as a way of addressing this problem too was a major achievement.
Accordingly, we embarked on an ambitious project under a public private partnership to launch housing projects for the middle class without being charged on the Treasury and the preliminary work in a 408 unit housing project was commenced at Welisara, Wattala signifying yet another landmark accomplishment in 2021.
Preparatory work in lands identified for new projects is now in progress.
In addition, provisions have been approved by the Treasury this year for the construction of 32 housing units at Thuduwegoda, Hikkaduwa and 83 housing units at Nawalapitiya for low income families. In addition to these achievements, I am happy to note that the grading of the staff which had been shelved since the inception of the Authority could be finalized this year creating a pleasant working environment within the institution.
Further, conducive environment for improved employee performance was created by starting quarterly employee appraisals. In the year 2021, vacancies in human resources were filled enabling the Authority to expedite the process of delivering a more efficient service to the public. For the spiritual development of the staff, arrangements were made to conduct a Dhamma Sermon by a Buddhist prelate every month on the day prior to the Full Moon Poya Day instilling spiritual values together with concentration, self-control making them more inclined towards service to the public.
It is also worth mentioning that opportunities were accorded whenever possible to staff members to take part in training programmes to broaden their knowledge despite the restrictions and obstacles due to the Covid-19 pandemic situation. Another responsibility entrusted to us this year under the ‘Swashakthi’ Human Development Programme was to plan special programmes to improve language skills and soft skills of young men and women.
We are committed to make the export market and local market accessible to entrepreneurs engaged in small and medium scale manufacturing processes and I wish to recall that People’s Bank joined hands with us for providing loan facilities to these entrepreneurs who are engaged in their trades as self-employed persons.
Similarly through the programmes
a host of programmes were implemented in 27 settlements in 16 districts for children, parents, young men and women, senior citizens and drug addicts.
Even during the quarantine curfew, our staff reported to work every day in spite the Covid pandemic considering their work as an essential service, and it is worthy of note that the office was not closed even for a single day in the year 2021 due to the quarantine curfew.
I am happy to note that all employees are working with single minded dedication towards the realization of our prime objective of making the USDA a public sector institution devoid of bribery and corruption equipped with a disciplined staff and a self-financing entity without being a burden to the people.
The Urban Settlement Development Authority (USDA),which was established in 2008 by Parliament Act No. 36 of 2008, is an institution functioning under the Ministry of Urban Development and Housing. The formulation of national policy in relation to urban settlement development and ensuring implementation of such policy, along with the provision of improvements to the living conditions of people in underserved settlements, are the interconnected twin objectives of the establishment of USDA.