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We are struggling with severe shortage of staff – Excise Chief

18 Apr 2024 - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}      

By Kurulu Koojana Kariyakarawana   

The Excise Department of Sri Lanka, one of the three main revenue generating arms of the country’s Ministry of Finance is struggling with a severe dearth of staff even to perform day-to-day duties, as the 17 top rung positions are vacant for months now, the Daily Mirror learns.  The Daily Mirror broke the story on January 3 this year under the heading ‘Excise Department on the brink of collapse,’ as its entire top rung officials are to retire in the coming few months has not seen any solution to the matter but the situation is getting otherwise worse.   

Several remaining senior concerned officers on the account of anonymity said even carrying out daily routine duties has become a fresh challenge as the remaining officials have to cover the work of 17 other officers. Most of these officers are compelled to dispose the lunch they bring from home as they hardly get any time to consume their meals.   
It is learnt that except for the post of the departmental head the Excise Commissioner General, the following positions of an Additional Excise Commissioner General, five Excise Commissioners, seven Deputy Excise Commissioners and several Assistant Excise Commissioners are vacant to date.    When contacted, the incumbent Excise Commissioner General M.J. Gunasiri told the Daily Mirror that they were handling duties with extreme difficulty as the stipulated amount of officials for the senior most positions are vacant.   
The Excise chief finds the reason for this crisis due to appropriate recruitment criteria not being followed for a longtime thus failing the due promotional schemes to the higher up positions to fill the void.   
“We have already informed our subject ministry the Ministry of Finance through several written submissions about the problem and also the Public Service Commission. The Finance Ministry has also informed the PSC about this issue and has requested to speed up the promotions without waiting for officers to complete their designated years of service in a single post, concerning the severe service requirement.   
However, we are yet to receive any response from the Public Service Commission regarding this matter for months now even when the recommendations by the Finance Ministry have been sent last year,” Gunasiri said.   
The Excise chief said they barely have time to complete the day’s duties once they have to sit for the important departmental and ministerial meetings during the early part of the day.   Attempts being made to contact the Excise Department Media Spokesperson for several months have not been successful until today as the designated officer is the only remaining Commissioner who has to oversee even the duties of two Additional Excise Commissioners General in charge of Legal and Revenue and Law Enforcement.   
Spokesman Commissioner Channa Weerakkody told the Daily Mirror that despite all these difficulties they have managed to generate the tax revenue in a steady position with a massive revenue target of Rs.232 billion given for the year 2024 by the Ministry of Finance.