An abomination | Daily News

An abomination

The Heads of the National Carrier and the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) are in hot water after their loss-making institutions paid Christmas bonuses to their employees totalling a whopping Rs. 1,780 million. While some big wigs of both institutions had received more than Rs. 1 million each as bonuses, SriLankan which is perennially in the Red had paid out Rs. 100,000 to each employee as a bonus.

This, after the Finance Ministry had issued a circular prohibiting all loss-making State institutions from paying bonuses to their employees.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe has called for explanations from the Heads of both SriLankan and CPC regarding the payment of bonuses to employees disregarding the Finance Ministry circular. It was only five days ago that the Finance Ministry Secretary issued another circular calling on Heads of State Institutions to drastically cut down on their expenditure with the warning that they will be held accountable if found to be in breach of the directive.

Now it is time for the authorities to walk the talk and take punitive action against the Heads of Sri Lankan and CPC who have violated both Finance Ministry circulars. They should be made examples of if a repetition is not to occur and to act as a deterrent against other Heads of State Institutions doing the same thing.

The question to be posed is how both SriLankan and CPC which are not only known to be in financial blackholes all the time but also are indebted to State Banks to the tune of Billions of rupees were able to raise the money to pay bonuses to their employees. The explanation by the CPC that it earned profits out of the recent increase in fuel prices does not hold water. In the middle of last year too, the CPC dished out a generous sum as bonuses to its employees at a time when there was no increase in fuel prices.

The position with regard to SriLankan is also the same, for when President Wickremesinghe assumed office as Prime Minister in the middle of last year the first thing he announced was the proposed privatization of the National Carrier which was bleeding the economy white. Shortly prior to that there were also media reports that SriLankan was laying off employees due to the inability to pay salaries.

Surely it could not have made such a stunning recovery to turn things around so quickly, to pay each employee Rs. 100,000 as bonuses and for its big wigs to pocket out Rs. 1 million as a bonus.

This about sums up the whole scenario regarding public sector institutions which are living beyond their means at the expense of the taxpayer. Here is ample ground for divesting all State institutions at the earliest possible opportunity. After the revelations surrounding the National Carrier and CPC where bonuses had been paid despite suffering perennial losses, it is difficult to imagine mass protests being staged against privatization as pronounced by some including the Trade Unions in these institutions who were the beneficiaries. This also applies to prominent Bhikku leaders whose common lament against the sale of ‘National Assets’ would hardly hold ground anymore given the evident waste and profligacy indulged in by State bodies.

Meanwhile, steps should be explored not just on penalizing the Heads of these State bodies by their removal or other such appropriate punishment but also find out means by which the booty could be recovered. During the Yahapalanaya Government a circular was issued to all Heads of State Organisations that in the event of any recruitment being made outside the cadre requirement in State Departments the salaries of such excess staff should be borne by the Heads of such Departments. Such a circular should be made valid again to prevent Heads of State bodies paying bonuses to employees at their whims and fancies as done at the National Carrier and CPC.

From a moral point of view too, the whole affair smacks of a grave injustice at a time most business establishments have closed down, employees thrown to the street and workplaces offering only half salaries to their employees in the wake of the economic ruin caused by the Coronavirus pandemic not to mention the blow dealt on the daily wage earner.

This is also a time where cries are increasingly going out to organisations both State and private sector for help to feed the increasing number of malnourished and those suffering in want. There are also shortages of vital medicines in hospitals and the prices of essential goods out of reach of the ordinary folk. At such a time for a section of the country’s workforce to enjoy fat salaries and on top of that grab thumping bonuses dished out by State Sector organisations to say the least is obscene indeed.

This abomination should open the eyes of those in the top echelons of power to make a careful evaluation of the type of individuals who are to be appointed to top posts in the State sector and select only those who are known for their integrity and responsible conduct to fit into the bill.


Add new comment