Illegal payments to staff amounted to Rs 3,679 mn

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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