Thursday September 20, 2018

Sri Lanka Transport Board busts Rs41bn in two years

Oct 02, 2017 07:02 AM GMT+0530 | 0 Comment(s)

ECONOMYNEXT - Sri Lanka Transport Board, a highly unionized state-owned enterprise, has busted up 41 billion rupees over the past two years in subsidies, procurement costs and shedding excess employees, official data show.

In 2016 alone the Sri Lanka Transport Board had gobbled up taxpayer funds of 27.5 billion rupees, data from the ministry of transport shows, rivalling the losses of SriLankan Airlines.

The Treasury is now paying 1,350 million rupees for recurrent expenditures to keep the SLTB running, the Public Enterprise Department of the Finance Ministry has revealed.

In 2016 Sri Lanka Transport Board has gobbled up 16.5 billion rupees in current expenditure. It includes 1.998 billion in tax payer funds given to for school season tickets, 289 million for military passes and 4.999 billion given for operating 'unremunerative' routes.

On top of that 9.253 billion rupees in other subsidies had been busted up, presumably for operating 'remunerative' routes.

The transport ministry had also given another 1.237 billion to buy bus engine kits, 3.192 billion for fleet augmentation and another 100 million rupees to buy small buses for remote villages.

Sri Lanka has a regulated route licensing system which has been hit by corruption allegations that prevents members of the community from operating buses to supply their transport needs, though small trucks and hand-tractors are unofficially operating in some areas.

As a result of state regulations preventing smaller vans or buses operating at slightly higher ticket prices, people are using three wheelers and increasingly buying their own motorcycles or other transport, analysts have said.

The Sri Lanka Transport Board was built by expropriating 80 privately held bus companies. The expropriation along with others, was a key milestone in the country becoming a lagging nation in Asia.

There were several attempts to reform the service including 'peoplesation' where stock was given to workers, attempts to privatize outright around 2002, and shed excess workers through a voluntary retirement scheme, which was resisted by the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna and other members of the elected ruling class.

The SLTB was recreated in 2005.

The bus service had been lucrative to the elected ruling class in being able to stuff it with their supporters.

In 2012, when the SLTB had filed the last annual report to parliament, it had 33,806 workers of which only 9,267 were drivers. It had 1,200 executives and 8,429 clerical and allied grades, 5,587 mechanics. Transport Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva told parliament in December 2015 that, 1,890 people hired as conductors or mechanics had no work as were made into 'clerks' and 'depot inspectors'.

According to central bank data in 2016, 5316 buses were operated each day by SLTB, indicating that each bus had about one mechanic and 1.5 clerks.

In 2016, 6.5 billion rupees of tax payer funds had been spent to shed 3,822 excess workers.

The auditor general had disclaimed the 2012 accounts saying he could not even given an opinion on the accounts, highlighting violations of Sri Lanka Accounting Standards. (Colombo/Oct02/2017)


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