18 September, 2020

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GMOA’s Tax-Free Demand Is Unethical & Manifestly Wrong 

By Nagananda Kodituwakku

Nagananda Kodituwakku

Nagananda Kodituwakku

Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA), threatened trade union action to restore the tax-free permit facility for the doctors and tried to paralyze the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe Administration. The government capitulated under pressure restoring the tax-free permits for doctors.

Permit holders had openly abused this tax-free permit scheme, since its inception for unjust enrichment by defrauding the government revenue

As a lawyer and a public interest litigation activist I believe in the people’s ‘right to know’ the inside untold story behind this fraudulent act.

In the first place I should say that I have no business with the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe administration or deposed Rajapaksa regime.

Just last November 2015 the Customs Department seized over 100 Toyota Prados vehicles at the Hambantota port imported on tax-free permits. Most of these permits had been issued to Doctors, which has been purchased by the Car importers for a substantial ‘price-tag’, ranging into 1 to 2 million rupees. These vehicles were seized for committing an allege revenue fraud. The permit holders (mostly doctors) were summoned to face a customs investigation where they admitted selling their permits, which was initially prohibited by allowed later by the former Rajapaksa regime.

These permits are issued under the Customs law (Section 19A) in the ‘Public Interest’, that granting of such a facility would enable the recipient of the permit to discharge the office effectively.

Doctors are not the only swindlers who abuse this permit scheme for unjust enrichment, but all other professionals, Parliamentarians and Cabinet of Ministers do the same with a scant respect to the Rule of Law.

When the Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake announced in his 2015 budge proposals to discontinue with this wrongful practice all right thinking people overwhelmingly approved it. Then as the Parliamentarians raised a strong protest, the so-called policy was withdrawn, accommodating the politicians. And further to protests made by other professionals, including doctors, the policy was further relaxed to accommodate all of them.

Wrong is wrong, regardless of the office held by the persons concerned. This country has suffered enough in the hands of the cheats for decades and should not afford this form of blatant abuses to continue unchecked.

In my view, the Prime Minister should request the Director General of Customs to make available the names of all Doctors, who have sold their duty free permits and also the details of the vehicles seized by Customs at the Hambantota Port with the information of the total amount of revenue defrauded by this abuse.

The Prime Minister should respect people’s right to know this information and expose this abuse to the general public, who are treated unequally, forcing them to pay penal levies, even for the basic cheapest cars they import, in most cases the government levy on which is more than the value of the vehicle.

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Latest comments

  • 3
    1

    This is a continuation of the corruption perpetuated by the JRJ govt.The Ministers, the MPs, the Local Govt Members robbed and to rob they need the help of the administrators.Thus such facilities were extended to the administrators.The mistake was there.

    The GA and the AGA of Kegalle was interdicted over the felling of a jak tree in the GA’s premises by JRJ. However he turned a blind when his MPs robbed in cahoots with the AGAs.

    The granting of tax free or concessional facilities to a section of selected class is wrong. However this proposal in 2015 is also unethical.What is given cannot be withdrawn without the consent of beneficiary.In the old days it was a common expression “Umba Dhobiyek Da?” when something given was withdrawn.

    The greatest corruption was to provide such facilities to social parasites for example the Buddhist priests.It has gone to such an extent that they flaunt bank accounts, convert their adobe to palaces and also flaunt their concubines.Such facilities like cars,grants to temples free electricity and water should be withdrawn.

    To hell with these two parties- they have corrupted this country enough.

  • 1
    5

    All professionals should be given duty free car permits. Professionals must be treated as special group of people. From ancient times it was the tradition to treat professionals as a privileged entity. Their time is precious and they must be granted immunity from certain matters. Then only they can work freely to serve people. They must be provided with good transport facilities. A car is not a luxurious item in modern society. Even sales representatives have modern cars !

    • 2
      2

      Yeah, yeah, Doctors are super salesman !

    • 2
      0

      Bull shit Dr No. Do you call the yobs in the Parliament professionals? Professional, as identified by their level of education, as well, as Senior Managers & others who do important work should be recognized & remunerated accordingly. In the private sector, additional perks for these people, such as company maintained vehicles, are the norm but Govt. employees are exempt from income tax. Isn’t that a perk? We should have a fairer society instead of allowing a privileged minority to benefit from this system. The permit system is a license to print money.

      Mr Kodituwakku, you are a credit to your profession for fighting injustice.

      • 1
        0

        Gov employees are exempt from tax. Wrong

        Salary is not taxed but if a government servant has a private income ie private practice which is taxable.

        Government should develop robust ways to collect tax. Government servants needs to be open and set an example.

        • 1
          1

          Ken robert,

          “Salary is not taxed but if a government servant has a private income ie private practice which is taxable.”

          Correct.

          Did not the budget have an idea of increasing the threshold of PAYE tax to 2,5 million to in a way compensate for the removal of the car permits?

          Maybe now there will be less PAYE tax and car permits?

  • 1
    2

    Dr. No Jr.O.K.Then witdraw the provision of an car given as the Official Car.Let them use thier private car for official work.It is acceptable to pay them for the use of the car.When I was in public service, we used our own car and claimed “travelling” and Butta.The official rates then was very low, that could be adjusted upwards.

    But No No to official cars and duty fee permits.

  • 1
    2

    A vehicle and a telephone are ESSENTIAL for senior government doctors to function effectively. They are consulted day and night by the juniors and colleagues and are required to present themselves without delay at hospital for enmergencies. The vehicle permit and the Rs 4000 paid as an allownace for the telephone are to help them to acquire these. A senior doctor is paid a salary of Rs 90,000. A neice of mine (in her late twenties, but not a doctor) in Colombo confessed that her electricity bill alone amounted to Rs 40,000 pm and that she considered this to be the norm. This is merely presented for comparison with the above salary of somebody on the verge of retirement.

    The GMOA IS a trade union, and has to protect the working conditions of it’s members.

    If the vehicle permits change hands for profit that is a different question that needs looking at. Abolishing the permit is NOT the answer. Neither can the government expect the rickety old private vehicle of the doctor (if he could afford one) to be used for government work. DO NOT confuse private practice done in the doctors’ own time and what they earn therefrom with the above.

    • 0
      0

      DO NOT confuse private practice done in the doctors’ own time and what they earn therefrom with the above.

      I am still confused. People in this country are very angry about private practice. Private practice certainly depends on doctor’s experience gained in government sector. A number of specialists were found doing private practice during office hours ( this includes a senior rheumatologist)

      I agree that even a senior doctor may not be able to afford buying a car. What we need is change in the attitude, culture of doctors while we ask for what we think are due. ( for example highlighting the inadequacies in hospital, corrupt practices of minor staff, safety reporting etc).

      We failed in delivering non clinical aspects of care ( as Lord Darzi’s triad would explain it. ( safety efficacy and patient experience). Then we will be in a better position to negotiate.

    • 1
      0

      Ram,

      “A senior doctor is paid a salary of Rs 90,000.”

      What about the junior doctors?

      I am against all vehicle permits and worried about the doctors in the rural areas where they only receive their salary and have no income from private practice. Higher salaries should be paid to keep them happy because they are really needed.

      I have never seen a doctor with a very expensive car in Jaffna. I believe that they sell their permits, drive a scooter, take a bus or might buy a cheap Indian car.

  • 0
    0

    Eusense,
    How many patients do you think enters a govt hodpital daily for OPD treatment? In TH Batticaloa where I work it’s more than or almost 1000. Same applies to clinics. As doctors we would love to alocate 10min per patient, but doing so will lim
    it the number we can see. That will not be fair by the patient. But easy for us. Most of the patients come with small ailments which can be dealt with quickly, but we do give time for cases that need urgent attention.

    Public might see privatization as the solution, but will not say that if you all have seen the general majority population of Sri Lanka who are dirt poor who will die without proper care if not for free health. This is not limited to East province, but everywhere in the island.

  • 0
    0

    Nagananda,

    Please answer to the questions I have made in my comments.

    Thank you.

  • 1
    0

    There is only one group in the society who should be given duty free concession. They are our migrant workers who toil and remit valueble foreign currency to the country. Bulk of them are house maids. The rich and the poweful including docyors and other so-called professionals are just a bunch of crooks living out of foreign currency remmittances of poor house maids and export proceeds earned through the toil of garment workers.

  • 0
    0

    Hear, hear, hear. This person cannot be a Sinhalese Buddhist. If there are about two dozen more then the island has a chance to freed from the criminals.

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