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Illegal payments to staff amounted to Rs 3,679 mn



Top management of the CEB before COPE (pic courtesy Parliament)

CEB law unto itself, violates Cabinet decision, FM circular

Rs 48 bn workers’ taxes paid; 25% salary increase

by Shamindra Ferdinando

The Board of Directors of the Ceylong Electricity Board (CEB) has continuously made quite significant payments to its workers in violation of a decision taken by the Cabinet-of-Ministers on 14 Nov. 2008 and Management Services Circular of No 39 of May 26, 2009.

This was revealed during the proceedings of the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) on 10 June, when the Ceylon Electricity Board top management appeared before the parliamentary watchdog.

The COPE convened with its Chairman Prof. Charitha Herath presiding.

It was revealed that the violation of the Cabinet decision as well as the Management Services Circular issued by the Finance Ministry had taken place even during the incumbent government.

The COPE took up with the CEB officials the issue of illegal payments made to the tune of Rs 1,544.4 mn and Rs 2,134.9 mn in 2020 and 2021, respectively. Dullas Alahapperuma and Gamini Lokuge served as Power and Energy Minister during this period.

The COPE members pointed out that the total expenditure of the CEB was much higher than the total revenue collected by the Inland Revenue Department. They asked for a Parliamentary Select Committee to probe the CEB but later agreed to have special meetings to examine the issue..

Pointing out that taxpayers’ money had been used in violation of specific instructions, Prof. Herath said that some special categories with ridiculous titles had been created to facilitate these illegal payments. A smiling lawmaker said that special payments had been made to those who read electricity meters correctly.

The examination also disclosed that Pay As You Earn (PAYE) tax and workers’ Advance Personal Income Tax (APIT) for 2010 to 2020 had been paid by the CEB at the expense of taxpayers’ to the tune of Rs 4.8 bn. The SLPP government in terms of a Cabinet paper submitted by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, in his capacity as the Finance Minister abolished PAYE at the onset of this administration.

Prof. Herath pointed out that the CEB had granted a 25% salary increase last year without following laid down procedures. According to COPE, this agreement caused further burden on the taxpayer amounting to Rs 9.6 bn.

It was also revealed that the Seethawaka river power project that was to be implemented in terms of 2018-2034 long term power generation plan had been called off after spending a staggering Rs 309.19 mn on a feasibility study.

Prof. Herath said that the CEB seemed to think their enterprise didn’t come under the purview of the government.

COPE members repeatedly pointed out that there were serious discrepancies in the procurement, distribution and in various projects. Therefore, the need for special focus on the CEB was stressed by members who expressed serious concerns over the financial status of the enterprise.

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About Rs 3 bn paid as OT during past few months



Overtime gravy train for CPC refinery workers:

By Saman Indrajith

About Rs. 3,000 million had been paid as overtime for the employees of the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation oil refinery, during the past few months, Parliament was told yesterday.

Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera said that he had asked for a detailed report as to whom and on what grounds the overtime payments had been made and it would be submitted to Parliament.

Fielding a question asked by Chief Opposition Whip, Kandy District SJB MP Lakshman Kiriella, Minister Wijesekera said instructions had been issued to regulate overtime.

MP Kiriella demanded to know why overtime had been paid to employees of an institution that had been shut down. “There are reports that over Rs 4,000 million has been paid as overtime to the workers of the refinery that was not functioning owing to the non-availability of crude oil. This is a crime,” Kiriella said.

Minister Wijesekera: “I made inquiries after I saw newspaper reports on payment of overtime to refinery workers. I inquired from the Finance Manager of the CPC. I was told that a sum between Rs 2.5 billion to Rs 3 billion had been paid as overtime. The refinery was not closed during the months of March and April. It was closed only during the last month. They had issued refined fuel on all seven days of the week continuously. When an institution operates full time in such a manner the employees would have to be paid for their overtime work. However, I admit that could have been done with some level of management in the payment process,” the Minister said.

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Wigneswaran claims RW accepted all his demands



Head of the Thamil Makkal Thesiya Kuttani (TMTK), C. V. Wigneswaran told the media recently that President Ranil Wickremesinghe had agreed to all demands he had made, including the release of Tamil ‘political prisoners’, to secure his vote during last month’s Parliament election, to elect a President.

He made this statement following a meeting with the President in Colombo to discuss the establishment of an all-party government.

“We have made several requests and if the President is ready to comply with them, we will consider taking part in the all party government,” he said.

“We met him when he was Prime Minister. Before the parliamentary vote to elect the President, I made these demands and he agreed to them. That is why I voted for him. Now, it is for him to keep his promises. I am here to remind him of this,” Wigenswaran said.

Wickremesinghe, as the Prime Minister in the yahapalana government, vehemently denied that there were Tamil ‘political prisoners’ in the country. (RK)

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MPs are not immune from country’s laws – SJB



By Saman Indrajith

Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa told Parliament yesterday that the MPs were not immune from the Penal Code despite the Parliamentary Powers and Privileges Act.

Premadasa said Cabinet Spokesman Minister Bandula Gunawardane had claimed that incidents in Parliament could not be dealt with under the regular law.

“This claim sends the wrong message to people. Aren’t the provisions of the Penal Code or the Offences against Public Property Act applicable to the MPs? There were incidents in this Chamber during the 52-day coup conspiracy; some MPs damaged public property. There were investigations by the CID and also by Parliament.

The Secretary General announced the cost of the damage. When the process was on to prosecute those MPs responsible for the damage, political influence was exerted on the CID not to file cases against the culprits. It is against this background that Minister Gunawardane, in his position as the Cabinet spokesman, makes this false claim. His statement is sending a message saying that there is one law inside the Parliament and another outside it.

“He also claims that the Speaker decides whether these laws are applicable to Parliament or not,” Premadasa said.

Colombo District SJB MP Mujibur Rahuman said that people were already against the MPs and this new wrong message would further exacerbate their anger against elected members. “The Cabinet Spokesman says that the MPs have a different set of laws while the people are dealt with by the country’s laws. That is wrong. We are also liable for criminal offences that we commit,” Rahuman said.

“The CID conducted an investigation and was prepared to file cases, but that was prevented through political influence. The Cabinet Spokesman’s statement is fueling public hatred towards the MPs. Please, request the Cabinet Spokesman to refrain from making such statements,” he said.

Minister Gunawardane said that he was only responding to a question raised by a journalist and the question was about fairness of cracking down on protesters for destroying public property, during anti-government protests, when MPs, who damaged Parliament, property under the former government, are yet to be apprehended.

Minister Gunawardane said as a public representative in Parliament for the last 33 years he had only explained that the law would be implemented against those engaged in violent activities during peaceful protests.

“I said MPs had Parliament privileges and the Parliament law. I also explained that MPs attending Parliament cannot be arrested as they are engaged in legislative activities,” he said.

Chief Opposition Whip, Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella, said that the MPs had no such legal immunity. and Parliament privileges only cover MPs from being arrested while they are on their way to attend and when they leave Parliament. “Therefore, there is no law that says they are exempt from other laws of the country,” Kiriella said.

Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena, agreeing with Chief Opposition Whip Kiriella, said that all other laws in the country applied to the MPs.

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