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Budget to be presented on Nov 17

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by Saman Indrajith

The new government would present its first budget to Parliament on November 17, Parliament sources said yesterday, adding that however the matter on the dates for the debate had not yet been finalised

 In the Appropriation Bill for 2021, Government expenditure for the year 2021 has been estimated at Rs. 2.6 trillion with the limit on borrowing set at Rs. 2.9 trillion.

 The government on 20 Oct. presented two appropriation bills to provide for the financial years 2020 and 2021. Along with the Appropriation Bill for 2021, the government presented a separate bill to cover the expenses for 2020 including the funds withdrawn from the Consolidated Fund under the authorisation of the President between March and August this year.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa authorised the withdrawal of funds from the consolidated fund using powers vested in him under Article 150 of the Constitution, once in March and again in June during the period Parliament stood dissolved with elections postponed due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Following the election victory of the SLPP in August 2020, Parliament approved a resolution to obtain around Rs 1.7 trillion to cover state expenditure for the next four months of the year by way of a Vote on Account .

The government expenditure for 2020 is estimated to be around Rs 2.538 trillion for the service of the period beginning on 1 January, 2020 and ending on 31 December, 2020. The limit on borrowings this year is Rs 2.65 trillion, according to the Bill.

In the Appropriation Bill for 2021, the government expenditure for the year 2021 has been estimated at Rs. 2.678 trillion with the limit on borrowing set at Rs. 2.9 trillion.

The highest allocations in both years will be for the Ministries of Defence, Highways and Provincial Councils.

The limit on borrowings for the financial year 2021 has been set at Rs. 2,900 billion with the details of such loans to be incorporated in the Final Budget Position Report which is required to be tabled in Parliament under section 13 of the Fiscal Management (Responsibility) Act No. 3 of 2003.

The highest allocations in the Budget will be for the Ministry of Defence topping Rs. 355 billion (Rs. 355,159,250,000) of which Rs. 316 billion (Rs. 316,806,290,000) will go for recurrent expenditure while capital expenditure at Rs. 38 billion (Rs. 38,352,960,000).

The State Ministry of Internal Security, Home Affairs and Disaster Management will get around Rs. 152 billion (Rs. 130,818,002,000 for recurrent expenditure, Rs. 21,647,040,000 for Capital expenditure).

The State Ministry of Provincial Councils and Local Government under which allocations are made to the nine PCs will get over Rs. 338 billion of which around Rs. 279 billion (Rs. 279,824,000,000) will be recurrent expenditure and around Rs. 58 billion (Rs. 58,250,000,000) capital expenditure.

The Ministry of Highways will get around Rs. 330 billion, of which around Rs. 329 billion (Rs. 329,999,590,000) will be capital expenditure and Rs. 185,415,000 recurrent expenditure.

The Ministry of Public Services, Provincial Councils and Local Government will get around Rs. 271 billion of which over Rs. 270 billion (Rs. 270,473,000,000) will be for recurrent expenditure and Rs. 1 billion (Rs. 1,250,000,000) for capital expenditure.

The allocation for the Ministry of Finance is around Rs. 157 billion with recurrent expenditure amounting to over Rs. 100 billion (Rs. 100,338,845,000) and capital expenditure stands at Rs. 57 billion (Rs. 57,264,870,000).

The Ministry of Education will get over Rs. 126 billion with over Rs. 102 billion (Rs. 102,670,000,000) allocated for recurrent expenditure and around Rs. 23 billion (Rs. 23,870,000,000) for capital expenditure.

The Ministry of Health has been allocated around Rs. 159 billion but the bulk of Rs. 128 billion (Rs. 128,480,998,000) will go for capital expenditure and around Rs. 30 billion (Rs. 30,995,000,000) for recurrent expenditure.

The Ministry of Urban Development and Housing will get around Rs. 23 billion (Rs. 530,341,000 for recurrent expenditure and Rs. 22,990,858,000 for capital expenditure.

The expense head of the Office of the President has been allocated close to Rs. 9.3 billion (Rs. 9,345,660,000) of which Rs. 3,206,180,000 will go for recurrent expenditure and Rs. 6,139,480,000 for capital expenditure.

The office of the Prime Minister will receive Rs. 1,051,750,000.

Party Leaders who met for a special meeting at the Parliament Complex last week had decided to take up the Appropriation Bill 2020 on Nov 12 and pass it the same day, Parliament sources said, adding that they also decided that the government would present budget 2021 on Nov 12.



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COPA questions lion’s share of fines going to Customs

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Irregularities, lapses, corruption erode public finance

By Shamindra Ferdinando

 The Committee on Public Accounts (COPA) has summoned the Inland Revenue Department tomorrow (23) for an inquiry regarding the inordinate delay in collecting taxes amounting to billions of rupees and extraordinary payments made to the officers of the Customs Department out of fines imposed on both public and private sector enterprises.

Besides, a COPA sub-committee is inquiring into revenue losses suffered over the years as a result of releasing vehicles imported for special purposes as dual-purpose vehicles. 

SLPP MP Prof. Tissa Vitharana heads the all-party watchdog committee. 

Secretary General of Parliament Dhammika Dasanayake in a statement issued on April 19 through the Communication Department of the Parliament said that Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) and COPA summoned four enterprises. COPE called the Sri Lanka Football Federation and the National Film Corporation on April 22 and 23, respectively. The COPA summoned the Wildlife Conservation Department and the Inland Revenue on April 21 and April 23, respectively, Dasanayake said.

COPA has fixed the meeting in the wake of disclosure of major shortcomings in the overall revenue collection process. Following COPA meeting Inland Revenue Chief H.M.C. Bandara on March 10, the watchdog committee called for accelerated measures to recover dues. The COPA pointed out that out of Rs 107 bn due to the government, only Rs 224 mn had been recovered so far, immediate measures were required to collect taxes and fines.

At the same meeting, the COPA, having questioned the correctness of a list containing tax defaulters furnished by the Inland Revenue Department, emphasized the pivotal importance of rectifying the shortcomings. The COPA also raised the practicability in recovering taxes in terms of the data provided by ‘Legacy’ and ‘RAMIS’ computer systems. 

The Inland Revenue Commissioner General lamented before COPA how inordinate delay in legal proceedings thwarted their efforts to recover taxes. The COPA assured that the Justice Ministry and the Finance Ministry would be summoned for a meeting along with the Inland Revenue Department to explore ways and means of overcoming the issue at hand.

At a subsequent COPA meeting held late March, it was revealed that in addition to their failure to recover taxes amounting to Rs 2,670 mn due from casinos, the Inland Revenue received 6,878 dishonored cheques to the tune of Rs 2,451,465,383. COPA members present on this occasion included Dayasiri Jayasekera, Lasantha Alagiyawanna, Dr. Sudarshani Fernandopulle, Tissa Attanayake, Mohamed Muzammil, Niroshan Perera, Dr. Upul Galapatti, Dr. Harini Amarasuriya, Cader Mastan, S. Sritharan and Weerasumana Weerasinha.

That particular meeting was also told that the amount of collectable taxes in terms of the ‘Default Taxes (Special Provisions) Act No 16 of 2010 (certified on Dec 07, 2010) amounted to a staggering Rs 144.5 bn. 

COPA and the Consultative Committee on Ports and Shipping had also taken up on March 9 and 24 the highly contentious issue of the Customs officers taking a big share of fines imposed on tax defaulters, both public and private sector. COPA pointed out that the Customs took advantage of the provision that 50 per cent of the fines imposed on defaulters were shared among those involved in a particular detection. COPA has discussed two specific issues in this regard. COPA pointed out that the allocation of 50 per cent of a fine received from the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) for defaulting in respect of gantry cranes to Customs officers was a major problem. COPA focused on taking necessary measures in this regard after having discussed the matter with relevant authorities, including the Treasury Secretary S.R. Attygalle.

COPA pointed out how out of Rs 205 mn fine imposed on Lanka Coal Company (Pvt) Limited for defrauding taxes, Rs 102.5 mn (50 per cent of the total amount) had been distributed among Customs officers as rewards and Rs 41 mn for their welfare (20 per cent) thereby leaving the government with only Rs 61.5 mn. COPA has directed Treasury Secretary Attygalle to conduct a fresh inquiry into this and take tangible measures to prevent similar malpractices in the future.

COPA investigations have also revealed massive racket in the registration of ‘dual purpose’ vehicles. It revealed that as a result of corrupt elements since 2013 registering vehicles imported for special purposes as ‘dual purpose’ vehicles the Treasury lost taxes amounting to Rs 220 mn.

In addition to that the Treasury had been also deprived of taxes amounting to Rs 1.300 mn by not imposing Rs 3 mn each on 443 special vans brought to the country during 2010-2019 period.

COPA also stated that the Customs perpetrated another massive fraud by allowing the import of 10 vans and 414 lorries as special purpose vehicles during 2010-2014.

COPA reported the Customs imposing Rs 1.5 mn tax on a super luxury car instead of legitimate Rs 56 mn.

It revealed the loss of revenue to the tune of Rs 6.1 bn during 2013-2016 period due to the Customs adopting wrong procedure in respect of large quantities of palm oil imports by two enterprises. The watchdog committee has instructed the Customs to expedite measures to recover the dues from those companies.

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India reiterates commitment to Sri Lanka’s security

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India has reiterated her support for Sri Lanka’s fight against terrorism. The assurance was made on the second anniversary of 2019 Easter Sunday attacks. The following is the text of statement issued by the Indian High Commission yesterday: “High Commissioner Gopal Baglay attended the solemn ceremony at St. Anthony’s Church on 21 April 2021 to mark the second anniversary of the dastardly Easter Sunday attacks. He lit a candle in memory of the victims of the attack and prayed for the recovery of those who are still suffering from its aftermath.

“It may be recalled that the High Commissioner had paid homage to the victims at the Church also on 23 May 2020, the first day after the completion of the mandatory 14-day quarantine period, subsequent to his arrival to Sri Lanka on 8 May 2020 on a special flight carrying a gift consignment of essential medical supplies from India. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had also paid his respects at the Church during the solidarity visit to Sri Lanka in June 2019.

“St. Anthony’s Church was one of the multiple targets of the Easter Sunday attacks, which also took away the lives of 10 Indians. These Indian victims fell prey to the perpetrators at Shangri-la, Kingsbury and Cinnamon Grand Hotels.  

India and Sri Lanka cooperate closely in all aspects across the security spectrum. India stands firmly with the people and Government of Sri Lanka in the fight against terrorism and also collaborate on curbing various other illegal activities, such as drug trafficking, narcotics, etc. “

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Explosive cargo: Ship carrying compound used for enrichment of uranium asked to leave H’tota port

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A ship that made an emergency call at the Hambantota International Port on Tuesday night (20) carrying Uranium hexafluoridea–a compound used in the process of enriching uranium, which produces fuel for nuclear reactors and nuclear weapons–has been asked to leave.

Chandula Rambukwella, Senior Manager, Commercial & Marketing, Hambantota International Port, issued the following statement yesterday: “M.V. BBC Naples sailing under the flag of “Antigua & Barbados” entered the port of Hambantota on 20th April at 2100 hrs, while en route from Rotterdam to China. The ship made an emergency call at the port for some urgent repairs. Agents for the vessel in Sri Lanka, Ms. Barwil Meridian Navigation, had not declared to the port authorities that there was dangerous cargo on board, prior to the vessel entering the port.

It was later found that they were carrying a cargo of Uranium Hexafluoride via investigations made by the Sri Lanka Navy and the Port Authority. The vessel was required to leave the port no sooner the facts were verified.

The SLPA, Navy, and Customs officials had approved all the necessary documentation prior to berthing of the vessel, based on the declaration made by the agent. The Navy and Customs were present at all times to ensure that there wasn’t any cargo unloaded onto the Hambantota International Port premises.”

 

 

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