Customs work-to-rule delays Rs 11 b revenue | Sunday Observer

Customs work-to-rule delays Rs 11 b revenue

The work-to-rule launched by Sri Lanka Customs trade unions has resulted in a revenue delay of over Rs. 11 billion by yesterday evening, the Customs Department trade unions told the Sunday Observer.

Protesting against the appointment of the new Customs Director General, retired Rear Admiral, Shamil Fernando, all three main trade unions at Sri Lanka Customs, Custom Staff Officers’ Association, Customs Officers’ Union and Customs Superintendents’ Association launched a work-to-rule demanding the reinstatement of the former DG of Customs, (Mrs) P.S.M. Charles.

“We launched the work to rule due to the removal of the former DG without the Finance Ministry stating a reason. On the other hand, this is the fifth DG appointment during the four-year rule of the present Government,” said the Secretary to the Custom Staff Officers’ Association and Deputy Director of the Customs Vipula Minuwanpitiya.

As a result of the Customs union action, a scarcity in some essential foods such as dhal and sugar could occur in the near future. A wholesales importer told the Sunday Observer yesterday that a few sugar and dhal containers are being held up in the Customs.

“We received perishable cargo such as potatoes and Bombay onions, but they are holding up the dry cargo. We have already paid all taxes including harbour charges and customs duties and are helpless without stocks. This is a huge loss for us,” he said.

“Currently only perishable items are being issued, such as fruits, vegetables and medicine,” said Minuwanpitiya.

Customs trade unions and Ministry of Finance (MOF) officers including Minister Mangala Samaraweera met on February 1 to resolve matters. Vice President of the Customs Officers’ Union, Amila Sanjeewa told the Sunday Observer that they would not stop the work to rule until the former DG is reinstated.

“The daily revenue of the Customs is about Rs 3 to 4 billion. Generally, we release about 1,500 containers daily. But yesterday, we released only about 400 containers. Of them around150 or 200 containers were released to the consignees. Hence this is a huge drop and we are making a daily revenue of about Rs 2.8 billion,” said Sanjeewa.

“The Customs couldn’t achieve its revenue targets last year. Revenue targets set by the Ministry are not realistic. But our revenue increased year by year. On the other hand, revenue depends on imports. Also the tax policy and exchange rate are some of the other factors of Customs revenue,” said Minuwanpitiya.

“A spokesman for the Finance Ministry said the Customs doesn’t work enough to check the narcotics through the Customs. We don’t have boats and we can’t carry out raids. However, the Minister said that he would appoint a committee to review the Customs Department. We welcome such a move,” Minuwanpitiya added.

A top official of the Ministry of Finance told the Sunday Observer that the revenue drop in the Customs had been the main reason for the removal of the former DG.

The Secretary to the Ministry of Finance, Dr. R.H.S. Samaratunge denied all allegations by some trade union members and added that he would issue a press release shortly.