Employees of the Inland Revenue Department yesterday took up cudgels against the government to win four demands, one of which is that a massive fraud be probed immediately. They vowed to continue their strike until all the demands were met.
`Our members of the Head office in Colombo and 13 other district offices will abstain from collecting tax arrears and will not proceed on investigations and field revenue collection. We know that this would affect badly on the nation`s economy, but we have no other alternative against suppression,` Secretary of the Inland Revenue Service Union, H.A.L.Udayasiri told The Island yesterday.
Among their demands is that legal action be taken against the biggest ever fraud to have happened in a public institution in Sri Lanka amounting to Rs 3,570 millions. `This is the biggest recorded swindle in a public institution in South Asia. This happened in the VAT division of the Inland Revenue Department. This is public money that they swindled. So far no action has been taken to bring the culprit to book,` he said.
Udayasiri said that the union had tried to obtain solutions for their demands and problems through negotiation with the authorities during the past few years, but the authorities had ignored and shirked their responsibilities. `Instead, they use force against us. When we tried to stage a satyagraha opposite the Head office in Chittampalam A. Gardiner Mawatha last week (5), the government used police force against us and they demolished our satyagraha stage. Now the administration is targeting the union activists and some of them had been transferred to outstations to suppress the voice against tax mafia,` he said.
The IRSU demands that the plans to modernise the department must be implemented as was pledged by the Finance Ministry on June 6, 2004. They also demand that suppression be stopped and employees must be allowed to exercise their trade union rights. Third, they demand that investigations into alleged corruptions and swindling must be resumed immediately. Their last demand is the amending of the service constitution to enable thousands of their members to receive their just dues.
The union will resort to further action if the department administration and finance ministry does not pay heed to their work-to-rule campaign. `We have already discussed these issues with other trade unions and organisations to solicit their support for our struggle,` Udayasiri said.
When contacted for his comments, the Auditor General S.C. Mayadunne admitted that there was an audit query on the fraud alleged by the unions and a report had been submitted to the Parliament but had so far not been tabled. Therefore further details on the report could not be released to the media he said.