The Furniture Project allowed me a wonderfully peripatetic existence over the next three years. In the first year, the government had agreed with the British to provide furniture in three districts, namely Trincomalee and Anuradhapura and Amparai. I had to check on the quality of the furniture and the distribution, and I found wide disparities in the integrity and efficiency of the various officials with whom we dealt. Though one of the aims of the project had been to provide employment in the target districts, some assumed that their areas would not be able to produce furniture of the required quality, and handed over the contracts to large establishments in Moratuwa. In some areas, the distribution was skewed, with schools getting less than they were allocated, either because of dishonesty, or else because schools not on the list cajoled what they wanted from complaisant officials. A frequent problem was that desks and chairs meant for primary children had been given for the use of secondary classes.
At the end of the Project however the desk officer at ODA remarked that this had been one of the best monitored projects they had implemented. Finding out later how shoddily aid is often administered, I am not surprised that they thought my work good. But I should confess that I also did it so thoroughly because I enjoyed travelling the length and breadth of the land, I loved going into schools and finding out what was going on, I used to check on English and other academic aspects during my visits, with John’s active encouragement, and I sent comprehensive reports to government officials as well as the British paymasters.