|Wednesday, 6 August 2003|
by Manjula Fernando Customs officers vehemently denied allegations that they were robbing the government by collecting millions of rupees in detection rewards.
At a media conference called by the Customs Trade Union Federation at the Nippon Hotel yesterday, joint secretary Assistant Superintendent Sudath Silva said they were responsible for 50 per cent of the annual revenue collection for Government and the allegation that they were collecting more than what is received by the Consolidated Fund was absolutely false.
"We are ready to counter these allegations in an open debate at any time anywhere," he challenged.
"We see these allegations are a step towards privatising the Customs department through the proposed Revenue Authority," he alleged.
He explained that not all detections involve large rewards. Detections concerning narcotics, wild life and fire arms investigated facing life threatening situations result in a meagre reward offered by their own department. Therefore, it was unfair to talk about only the big rewards which are also received on their own merit, legitimately sanctioned under the Customs Department Act.
"Some of our officers work under extreme situations. Their work involves frequent confrontations with dangerous drug dealers and international racketeers. However, unlike other forces combating crime like the police or the armed forces we have no training in weapons or self defence."
Assistant Customs Superintendent Vipula Minuwanpitiya said the authorities could initiate proper investigations against corrupt officers without making malicious allegations against the entire staff. "We take rewards because we refuse to take bribes," he stressed.
Commenting on the proposed Authority they said in their view the governing board which will have powers to issue search warrants and consider appeals, should consist of two private and seven government sector representatives.
"Any change will be alright, as long as the Customs department will be intact and full authority on revenue collection remains with the government," they said.
The members of the Federation was scheduled to meet the Deputy Finance Minister last afternoon to discuss their counter proposals for the Revenue Authority.
Head of the Bio diversity Unit Samantha Gunasekera, Superintendent of Customs Anil de Silva and Assistant Superintendent Upul Wasantha also spoke.
Produced by Lake House