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COPA: Excise Dept. fails to collect Rs. 2.37 bn

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By Saman Indrajith

A probe by the Committee on Public Accounts (COPA) has revealed that the Excise Department failed to collect Rs. 2.37 billion as tax revenue last year.

The probe conducted by the COPA under the chairmanship of Prof Tissa Vitarana, on Monday, found the total amount of tax arrears due to the Excise Department for more than five years was Rs. 479.9 million as at December 31, 2019 and its delay charge alone amounted to Rs. 1.89 billion making the total outstanding amount Rs. 2.3762 billion .

COPA Chairman Prof. Vitarana ordered that prompt action be taken to recover the arrears.

The Commissioner General of Excise and other officials informed the Committee that legal action had been taken to recover the arrears.

The Committee noted that the Excise Department had conducted 224,737 raids during the last five years, and of them 53,848 were carried out in 2017, 49,278 raids in 2018 and 47,391 raids in 2019.

COPA Chairman Prof. Vitarana highlighted the fact that disciplinary inquiries against 48 Excise officers, suspended for various reasons as at Dec 31, 2019 had not been completed. He pointed that one to three years had elapsed since the suspension of those officers. It was revealed that some of the officers had been suspended for not attending the District Coordinating Committee meetings.

Prof. Vitarana instructed to complete legal proceedings expeditiously. The Chairman emphasised that immediate steps should be taken to fill the vacancies of senior and middle management posts, following proper procedure.

The Committee also noted that the security sticker management process with a procurement cost of Rs. 1,597,559 by November 2020 was limited to imported foreign liquor, which accounted for only 0.28% of the total revenue of the Excise Department. The Committee stressed that it was an essential programme to standardise the local produced liquor as well.

The probe was conducted by COPA chaired by Prof. Vitarana and State Ministers Dayasiri Jayasekara, Lasantha Alagiyawanna, Shehan Semasinghe, and Members Tissa Attanayake, Dr. Upul Galappaththi, Prof. Ranjith Bandara and Secretary to the Treasury and Ministry of Finance S.R. Attygalle. Commissioner General of Excise A. Bodaragama and other senior officials of the Excise Department were also present.



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Six nabbed with over 100 kg of ‘Ice’

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By Norman Palihawadane and Ifham Nizam

The Police Narcotics Bureau (PNB) yesterday arrested six suspects in the Sapugaskanda Rathgahawatta area with more than 100 kilos of Crystal Methamphetamine also known as Ice.

Police Media Spokesman, Deputy Inspector General of Police, Ajith Rohana told the media that the PNB sleuths, acting on information elicited from a suspect in custody had found 91 packets of Ice.

A man in possession of 100 kilos of heroin was arrested in Modera during the weekend and revealed that a haul of Ice had been packed in plastic boxes.

The PNB seized more than 114 kilos of Ice from the possession of a single drug network.

According to the information elicited from the suspects, more than 100 kilos of Ice were found.

The PNB also arrested six persons including two women with 13 kilos of Ice, during an operation carried out in the Niwandama area in Ja-Ela on Sunday.

DIG Rohana said the ice had been packed in small plastic boxes and hidden in two school bags.

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PM intervenes to iron out differences among coalition partners

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By Norman Palihawadane

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday said that he was confident that differences among the constituents of the SLPP coalition as regards the May Day celebrations and the next Provincial Council elections could be ironed out soon.

Leaders of all SLPP allied parties have been invited to a special meeting to be held at Temple Trees with the PM presiding on April 19.

Prime Minister Rajapaksa said it was natural for members of a political alliance to have their own standpoints and views on matters of national importance. “This is due to the different political ideologies and identities. It is not something new when it comes to political alliances world over. In a way, it shows that there is internal democracy within our alliance.

The PM said: “As a result of that the allied parties may express their own views on issues, but that does not mean there is a threat to the unity of the alliance. An alliance is more vibrant and stronger not when all the parties think on the same lines but when the member parties have different ideologies.”

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Thilo Hoffman remembered

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A copy of the book “Politics of a Rainforest: Battles to save Sinharaja” was handed over to Dominik Furgler, the Swiss Ambassador in Sri Lanka by the author of the book, Dr. Prasanna Cooray at the Swiss Embassy in Colombo last Tuesday, to be sent to the family of the late Thilo Hoffman in Switzerland.

Hoffman, a Swiss national, who made Sri Lanka his second home for six decades, was a pioneering environmental activist who led the battles to save Sinharaja from the front in the early 1970s, abreast with the likes of Iranganie Serasinghe, Kamanie Vitharana, Lynn De Alwis and Nihal Fernando of the “Ruk Rekaganno” fame. That was the era when the trees of Sinharaja were felled for the production of plywood by the then government. Hoffman was also a livewire of the Wildlife and Nature Protection Society (WNPS) for a long time. Hoffman died in 2014 at the age of 92.

The book includes a chapter on Thilo Hoffman.

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