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VAT being levied as penalty causes Rs 125 million loss to govt



By Saman Indrajith

The government suffered a loss of Rs 125.5 million owing to a mistake committed in levying taxes on coal imported for the Norochcholai Thermal Power Plant, says the Second Report of the Committee on Public Accounts presented to parliament on Wednesday by Committee’s Chairman Prof. Tissa Vitarana.

The report says: It was observed that, Sri Lanka Customs has conducted a customs investigation and Rs. 205 million of penalty had been imposed and recovered regarding under payment of Rs.187, 068,787/- in respect of under calculated and paid value added tax (VAT) due to non-calculation of transport and other costs in importing the coal required for the Norochcholai Thermal Power Plant by Lanka Coal Company (PVT) Ltd., as per the provisions of Gazette Notification No.1994/18 dated 23 November 2016.

“The Committee observed that only Rs. 61.5 million was credited to the Government Revenue and as a result the Government lost Rs. 125.5 million due to the fact that VAT has been levied as a penalty instead of being levied as an additional tax, 50% of the fine levied amounting to Rs. 102.5 million has been given as rewards to the officers and 20% amounting to Rs. 41 million has also been credited to the officers’ welfare Management and Compensation Fund.”

The Committee has observed that the Inland Revenue Department, one of the three major contributors to nearly 90% of government revenue, has a large unresolved tax arrears and the government incurs a huge loss due to the delay in settling the arrears.

“Out of the computer programs of the Inland Revenue Department in this regard, the amount of tax in arrears pertaining to the institutions identified with respect to the Legacy system as at 30 March 2021 is Rs. 18 billion. Out of this amount, only Rs. 424 million has been recovered in cash. The amount of Rs.10 billion had been settled in the form of suspensions, tax and penalty deductions, penalty cuts, journal transfers and tax refunds.

However, it was revealed that, the Special Unit set up to settle the tax in arrears related to the Legacy system has settled a large amount of tax and the outstanding tax balance of this unit as at 31.03.2021 is Rs.79 billion only,” says the report.

It says: “According to the RAMIS (Revenue Administration Management Information System) system, the tax in arrears on that day was Rs. 87 billion. Of this amount, only Rs 4 billion had been recovered in cash. The amount of Rs. 60 billion was settled in the form of suspensions, tax and penalty deductions, penalty cuts, journal transfers and tax refunds. The Committee drew its attention to the fact that taxes classified under the category of ‘Recoverable Taxes’ were not in a position to be collected without any actual problems and the Committee observed that an overestimation of the taxes that could be levied due to this does not indicate the true situation.”

Presenting the report to the House, its chairman Prof Vitarana said that the committee had probed accounts of 16 public institutions and he was shocked to see the findings of some investigations.

The committee has observed that there was a loss of ability to reduce the road accidents by half due to the shortcomings of the technical equipment required to the Police who play a significant role in road safety and the necessity to transform the National Council on Road Safety into a National Commission.

“It costs between Rs. 1 million and Rs. 10 million to treat a person subject to a road accident and it was revealed before the Committee that a National Council for Road Safety consisting of representatives from 17 Governmental and Non-Governmental Organizations have been appointed to work on establishing a safe road network for all. The Committee emphasized that there is an urgent need to transform this National Assembly into a Commission.

The Committee also stressed that the Sri Lanka Police was found to be lacking in technical equipment to prevent road accidents and that the relevant parties should take immediate action in this regard and provide the necessary items as soon as possible.”

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No immediate hike in fuel prices – Udaya



Finance Minister rules out bailout package for CPC

By Rathindra Kuruwita

Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa has told Minister of Energy Udaya Gammanpila that the Treasury is not in a position to assist the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC). However, there would not be a fuel price hike in the short term, the Minister of Energy told the media yesterday.

Minister Gammanpila said that if a fuel hike was on the cards, he would announce it publicly.

“This is what I did last time also. This time around, I have told the people that we are facing a serious problem. We incur a loss of Rs. 15 on a litre of petrol and a loss of Rs 16 on a litre of diesel. The Chairman of the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) has asked for a price increase,” he said.

Gammanpila said he told the Chairman of the CPC that they should first seek assistance from the Treasury. Given that prices of all essential items had increased, a significant increase in fuel prices would cause great inconvenience to the people, he said.

“At the last Cabinet meeting, I asked the Finance Minister for assistance. He said it was hard to provide assistance and was non-committal. I will again take the matter up at the next Cabinet meeting,” he said.

The government was discussing the possibility of obtaining a 3.6 billion US dollar credit line for fuel from Oman. Sri Lanka spent around USD 300 million on oil imports per month and the credit line would allow for a year of fuel supply at concessionary rates, the Minister said.

“If we get this credit line, we should be able to weather this storm. Otherwise, I will ask the Cabinet for relief. While people are suffering, we can’t also let the CPC go bankrupt. If CPC goes bust, the People’s Bank and Bank of Ceylon will be in deep trouble too,” the Minister said.

Gammanpila added that there was no point in queuing at fuel stations because a decision to increase fuel takes a few months to be approved. For example the previous hike in June was first proposed in April. “If takes a few months for such a proposal to be approved and implemented. I was told that people were queuing at fuel stations last Monday and Wednesday.”

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JVP calls for multi-agency probe into Rs. 4 bn. Gin-Nilwala scam



Ex Prez can assist inquiry

By Shamindra Ferdinando

JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake says a comprehensive multi-agency investigation is required to get to the bottom of what he called the massive Gin Nilwala scam perpetrated in 2012 and 2015.

In spite of disclosures in that regard, both in and outside Parliament, over a period of time, absolutely nothing had been done so far, lawmaker Dissanayake told The Island.

The government owed an explanation why over Rs 4 bn had been paid to a Chinese firm, in Dec 2012, and on January 7, 2015, as the project was yet to get off the ground, MP Dissanayake said.

The JVPer said that he felt the need to highlight the Gin Nilwala scam against the backdrop of the Pandora Papers exposure of former Deputy Minister Nirupama Rajapaksa’s husband, Thirukumar Nadesan, as the Chinese company, allegedly involved in the Gin Nilwala project had moved money to a foreign account, in Hong Kong, held by the businessman.

Asked whether the Gin Nilwala scam, too, had been dealt by Pandora Papers, MP Dissanayake said as far as he knew Pandora Papers’ disclosure didn’t include the Gin Nilwala project.

Responding to another query, lawmaker Dissanayake said that though the then President Maithripala Sirisena questioned the Gin Nilwala project, the yahapalana government never investigated the issue properly.

MP Dissanayake said it wouldn’t be a difficult task to establish the transferring to a foreign account of Rs one bn in Dec 2012 and the over Rs. 3 bn on January 7, 2015, the day before the presidential election. Since the release of Pandora Papers, the video footage of former President Sirisena, now an SLPP MP, on the Gin Nilwala project had gone viral, the MP said.

The JVP leader said that the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption (CIABOC) should inquire into the matter as part of the ongoing examination of matters relating to Thirukumar Nadesan in respect of Pandora Papers.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Oct. 06 instructed CIABOC to inquire into Sri Lankans mentioned in Pandora Papers. Nadesan, too, also on the same day, asked President Rajapaksa to conduct an independent investigation into the allegations by appointing a retired Appeals Court Judge for the task. The CIABOC has recorded Nadesan’s statement in this regard.

MP Dissanayake alleged that successive governments had conveniently turned a blind eye to major cases of corruption. The very basis of parliamentary control over public finance was under threat, MP Dissanayake said, urging the government to take remedial measures or face the consequences. “Billions of rupees had been moved around, misappropriated and squandered. Those responsible for ensuring the proper practices are accused of exploiting the system. What is happening now is tragic,” MP Dissanayake said.

The JVPer said that examination of proceedings of the COPE (Committee on Public Enterprises), COPA (Committee on Public Finance) and COPF (Committee on Public Finance) since the last general election revealed a frightening situation. The reports before the last general election were no exception, the parliamentarian said, the level of corruption in the public sector and the private-public sector joint ventures was horrifying. The national economy was being mercilessly exploited by persons holding office, the JVP leader said, the CIABOC could examine proceedings of the parliamentary watchdog committees if it was genuinely interested in stamping out corruption.

MP Dissanayake said that the national economy was in such a desperate situation thanks to decades of waste, corruption, irregularities and negligence on the part of political parties in power. “Today, we are seeking finance assistance from various countries. Recently, Foreign Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris revealed he discussed ways and means to overcome financial crisis with the visiting Indian Foreign Secretary,” he said.

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Inter-provincial travel restrictions extended to Oct 21



Inter-provincial travel restrictions have been extended to October 21, the Presidential Media Division (PMD) said issuing a press release yesterday.

The PMD added that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had instructed the security forces to strictly enforce the inter-province travel restrictions during the weekend.

The decision was taken at the COVID-19 Prevention Committee meeting held Friday (15) morning.

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