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Accusations reiterated, explanation sought from FM

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State Minister Siyambalapitiya meeting senior officials in charge of revenue collection on Sept 26 (pic courtesy Finance Ministry)

Tax evasion:

By Shamindra Ferdinando

SLPP MP Mahindananda Aluthgamage yesterday (25) said the Finance Ministry owed an explanation regarding its failure to regulate chartered accountants to increase state revenue.

The former minister said so when The Island asked whether the Finance Ministry had cared to verify accusations he made in Parliament on 20 Sept., about large-scale tax evasion and the role played by some chartered accountants/tax consultants in the racket.

It was common knowledge that when a tax return was submitted through a firm of chartered accountants the Inland Revenue officers hardly asked any questions, MP Aluthgamage said.

Aluthgamage said that he expected the Finance Ministry and other relevant institutions to get in touch with him. “However, they hadn’t contacted me, though the Finance Ministry on Sept. 26 assured that the Parliament would be briefed on the developments and action taken as regards the accusations within a month,” he said.

Pointing out that the promised report hadn’t been submitted to Parliament, Aluthgamage said that in spite of the financial crisis those responsible continued to evade the contentious issues at hand.

The MP said that he wouldn’t withdraw the accusations he made in Parlia-ment on Sept 20 under any circumstances. The Finance Ministry should either prove me wrong or take remedial measures as soon as possible, the MP said, urging the powers that be to address the issues at hand or face the consequences.

Referring to what he called two glaring cases of tax evasion involving prominent businessmen, MP Aluthgamage said that the Finance Ministry should go the whole hog. The situation was so bad the government couldn’t ignore the urgent need for overall reforming of the tax collecting structure, the ex-minister said. Reiterating the pivotal importance in regulating chartered accountants, lawmaker Aluthgamage revealed an instance Rs 35 bn was shown as Rs 5 bn.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe holds the finance portfolios whereas Ranjith Siyambalapitiya and Shehan Semasinghe serves as State Finance Ministers. SLFPer Siyambalapitiya is responsible for revenue collection.

State Minister Siyambalapitiya on Sept. 26 requested a comprehensive report from the Customs, Inland Revenue Department and Excise Department as regards the issues raised by MP Aluthgamage in terms of Standing Orders (27) 2. Requesting them to submit their report within two weeks, MP Siyambalapitiya assured that the parliament would be briefed within a month. Instructions were issued at a meeting chaired by State Minister Siyambalapitiya at the Finance Ministry. Among those present were Inland Revenue chief D.R.S. Hapuaarachchi, Director General Customs P.B.S.C. Nonis and Commissioner General, Excise M.J. Gunasiri.

Referring to staff-level agreement Sri Lanka reached with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), MP Aluthgamage said that the government was taking measures to enhance revenue. The parliament endorsed ‘Social Security Contribution Levy’ on Sept 08 with 91 members voting for and 10 against, the former minister said, adding that it was meant to annually collect Rs 140 bn. “Taxes are necessary. All of us understand difficulties experienced by vast majority of people struggling to make ends meet. Indirect taxes are imposed on them whereas those who should pay taxes continue to evade the taxman,” MP Aluthgamage said.

MP Aluthgamage said that the current tax appeal system should be examined as interested parties continued to exploit the loopholes for their advantage. The former minister said that the reports released by parliamentary watchdog committees, COPE (Committee on Public Enterprises), COPA (Committee on Public Accounts) and COPF (Committee on Public Finance) since the last general election revealed how the government deprived itself of the revenue by allowing interested parties to exploit the tax collection system.Lawmaker Aluthgamage said that the media recently reported a group of Inland Revenue officers complaining to the police regarding his criticism. According to Aluthgamage, the police never sought a statement from him. In fact, it was not a matter for the police, the MP declared, adding that the Finance Ministry should brief the Parliament and take whatever measures necessary to streamline tax collection.



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Death threats won’t deter us – EC Chairman

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Nimal Punchihewa (Chairman ECSL) picture by PRIYAN DE SILVA
Chairman of the Election Commission of Sri Lanka Nimal Punchihewa told The Island that members of  the election commission won’t be deterred by death threats.
He said that members of the commission  M M Mohamed,  K P P Pathirana and S B Diwarathne have been repeatedly threatened and the police have not been able to apprehend the perpetrators.
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Three people dead after torrential rain in New Zealand

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At least three people have died due to flash flodding in Auckland (picture BBC)

BBC reported that at least three people have died and one is missing after New Zealand’s largest city experienced its “wettest day on record” on Friday.

Auckland is said to have received 75% of its usual summer rainfall in just 15 hours.

A local state of emergency was declared as authorities managed evacuations and widespread flooding.

New Zealand’s Prime Minister Chris Hipkins thanked emergency services for their swift response to the disaster.The new prime minister travelled to Auckland, where he also expressed his condolences to the loved ones of those who died in the floods.

“The loss of life underscores the sheer scale of this weather event and how quickly it turned tragic”, he said in a news conference on Saturday afternoon.

The downpour flooded the airport, shifted houses and resulted in power cuts to homes for hours.

New Zealand’s defence forces were mobilised to assist with evacuations and emergency shelters were set up across the city.

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Parliament prorogued on Friday night

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President says cabinet agreeable to fully implementing 13 A until party leaders decide whether or not to abolish the Amendment

Parliament was prorogued from midnight Friday (27) by President Ranil Wickremesinghe under powers vested in him by Article 70 of the Constitution, parliamentary sources said on Friday.

The Department of Government Printing was due to issue the relevant notification on Friday night but it was not out as this edition went to print.However the President’ Media Division (PMD) confirmed the prorogation on Friday evening saying that President Wickremesinghe “is expected” to make a policy statement based on the decisions taken after the 75th Independence anniversary when parliament recommences on Feb.8.

A separate bulletin said that the president had informed the party leaders Conference on Reconciliation that the cabinet was agreeable to “fully implementing (the) 13th Amendment until party leaders decide whether or not to abolish the Amendment.”

Parliamentary sources explained that a prorogation which is a temporary recess of parliament, should not extend to a period of more than two months, However, such date for summoning parliament may be advanced by another presidential proclamation provided it is summoned for a date not less than three days from the date of such fresh proclamation.

Political observers believe that the prorogation is related to the president’s effort to secure as wide a consensus as possible on the National Question. They dismissed speculation that it is related to the scheduled local elections. This issue was clarified by the PMD bulletin.

When parliament is prorogued, the proclamation should notify the date of the commencement of the new session of parliament under Article 70 of the Constitution.During the prorogation the speaker continues to function and MPs retain their membership of the legislature even though they do not attend meetings of the House.

The effect of a prorogation is to suspend all current business before the House and all proceedings pending at the time are quashed except impeachments.A Bill, motion or question of the same substance cannot be introduced for a second time during the same session. However, it could be carried forward at a subsequent session after a prorogation.

“All matters which having been duly brought before parliament, have not been disposed of at the time of the prorogation, may be proceeded with during the next session,” states the paragraph (4) of article 70 of the constitution.

In the light of this constitutional provision, a prorogation does not result in an end to pending business. Thus, a pending matter may be proceeded with from that stage onwards after the commencement of the new session.

At the beginning of a new session all items of business which were in the order paper need to be re-listed, if it is desired to continue with them.At the end of a prorogation a new session begins and is ceremonially declared open by the president.

He is empowered under the constitution to make a statement of government policy at the commencement of each session of parliament and to preside at ceremonial sittings of parliament in terms of the provisions of paragraph (2) of article 33 of the constitution.The president is empowered to make a statement of government policy at the commencement of each new session. In the past, it was known as the Throne Speech which was delivered by the Governor-General.

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