Salaries Commission Chief points to haphazard payment of cost of living allowance

Does govt. have funds to correct state sector salary anomalies?


By Shamindra Ferdinando

Presidential Salaries Commission Chief S.R. Ranugge yesterday said that a substantial section of the state sector employees had been unjustly deprived of the cost of living allowance. The senior retired public servant said that the payment of the cost of living allowance only to a section of the public sector couldn’t be justified under any circumstances.

Ranugge said so in response to" The Island" query whether he would take into consideration the unprecedented crisis caused by the rapid depreciation of the Rupee against the US Dollar in the backdrop of higher US interest rates and increase in fuel prices on a monthly basis, in making his recommendations.

President Sirisena appointed a 15 -member committee headed by Ranugge on Aug 22, 2015 to make recommendations in respect of salary anomalies and different allowances.

Ranugge said that his Commission would certainly make a recommendation regarding the payment of the cost of living allowance without bias. The report would be handed over to President Sirisena at the end of this month, Rannuge said, adding that the examination of state sector salaries and allowances circulars were taking place amidst trouble in several sectors, the Railways, Postal, All Island Services et al.

President Sirisena will receive the report before the presentation of 2019 Budget now scheduled to take place on Nov 5.

S P Sumanasinghe functions as the Secretary to the Commission. 

Other members of the commission are: K.L.L Wijeratne, T P Collure

C.P. Siriwardene, Sudharma Karunaratne, Janaka Sugathadasa, Dharani Wijetilleke

Lalith R. de Silva, P.S. Edirisinghe, BPPS Abeygunewardene, Palitha Abeykoon

P. Thangasmail and M.C. Wickremesekera.

The Commission meets at the Sri Lanka Institute of Development Administration (SLIDA).

Ranugge acknowledged that since the establishment of his Commission in August, the situation had undergone a drastic change with the increase in cost of living largely due to factors beyond Sri Lanka’s control.

Asked whether the government had the wherewithal to manage enhanced cost of living payments, Ranugge said that their task was to recommend ways to eliminate salary anomalies and discrepancies in circulars/allowances.

Ranugge declined to name those state sector institutions that had been paying cost of living allowance though the Commission report would identify them.

According to him, several trade unions representing key sectors, including health and Railways were called by the Commission to ascertain their views.

Responding to another query, Ranugge said that his Commission lacked mandate to inquire into private sector wages. Asked whether his Commission would inquire into the illegal practice of an influential section of the public sector institutions paying PAYE (Pay As You Earn) tax on behalf of their employees in violation of Finance Ministry circulars, Ranugge said that the issue wouldn’t be dealt by his Commission.

However, he admitted that PAYE tax should be paid by employees.

Ranugge stressed the need to ensure equality among public sector workers.

General Secretary of the Communist Party Dew Gunasekera told The Island that the country was paying a very heavy price for having addressed these issues in an improper manner. Gunasekera said that for want of a cohesive tax strategy as well as policy on state sector salaries and allowances had caused unrest. The veteran politician said that the long standing issue over PAYE tax payments underscored the failure on the part of successive governments to do away with practices contrary to the laws of the land. Gunasekera said that illegal PAYE tax payments continued even after the issue was raised in parliament during the previous administration.

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