Despite being over-staffed by 100 percent, new recruitments are being made, choking the life out of the CPC and CPSTL as excess staff salaries alone run into 1000 million
by Nirmala Kannangara
The never-ending line of political recruitments to the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) and Ceylon Petroleum Storage Terminal Limited (CPSTL) have contributed to the inability to bring down fuel prices, JVP affiliated Petroleum Common Services Union (PCSU) alleged.
According to PCSU President, Western Provincial Counsellor Asoka Ranwala, the CPSTL management last week made 179 new recruitments which is expected to cost the institution an additional Rs.123 million monthly if their take-home salary including over-time is estimated at Rs.80, 000.
According to Ranwala there are no specific work duties for the new employees nor space for a seat.
“The present world crude oil prices are now on par with the 1977 prices, but the Petroleum Corporation has failed to bring down oil prices because of its wastage. At the time the previous regime was toppled, CPC and CPSTL had 100% excess cadre which was a burden to the corporation. Even a labourer at CPC or CPSTL draws more than one hundred thousand rupees per month including overtime. At the time the new government came into power, more than Rs.800 million had to be paid as salaries for just the excess staff. Despite this burden, the present Petroleum Resources Minister Chandima Weerakkody last week recruited 179 people from down south for various posts,” Ranwala said.
Ranwala said that the present management cannot boast about cutting down excess staff by 480 after they took over office. According to him the corporation has to allocate nearly Rs.1000 million monthly just for salaries of the excess staff.
“True, they reduced the staff by 480 but after a few months they recruited another 179. So what is the purpose of this? There is yet another plan to recruit more to the CPC in the months to come and that was why 480 were removed last year,” Ranwala added.
Meanwhile a highly reliable CPSTL official said on condition of anonymity that half of the new appointees do not have even GCE O/L qualifications. “Each of these new recruits will get a take-home salary of Rs. 100, 000. When there are so many unemployed graduates in the country what made the Petroleum Minister give employment to unqualified people?” sources questioned.
According to the sources, although these 179 got their appointments on March 7, it is alleged that the Minister had made a request to the management that the April bonus be paid to them.
“Petroleum staff are given bonuses in April and December. When we were recruited bonuses were paid after we were confirmed in our posts but now without considering company regulations, these new recruits are to be paid the bonus next month,” sources claimed.
The sources further stated that recruitment to the security staff too had become a burden to the institution as it was the easiest way to give employment to those who had not even studied up to grade eight.
“The staff and security guards ratio is 7:1 even though we have army security at all the major stations. When the LTTE attacked the Kolonnawa oil tanks, the soldiers remained there and provided security but other than a few corporation security guards, all others had run for their lives and were found taking shelter at Weliweriya. Do we really need such security when we have the army deployment at all major places?” sources queried. According to the sources, the staff requirement for the Kandy depot is 12 although there are 74 employed there. “It is the same with the Kurunegala depot as well. When Minister Anuruddha Ratwatte was in charge of the Petroleum Ministry the situation became really bad as he recruited so many people from Kandy. It was the same when Anura Priyadharshana Yapa was the Minister. He too followed in the same footsteps and gave many appointments to youth from Kurunegala. Now the present Minister too is trying to follow his predecessors’ paths. They don’t want to serve the people of the country but work for personal gains,” sources said.
Meanwhile, Secretary UNP affiliated Jathika Sevaka Sangamaya (Petroleum Branch) Ananda Palitha said that when the corporation’s requirement is to cut down staff and give relief to the people, by recruiting more and more when the excess staff is 100% more than the required cadre, the people will never be able to get the benefit of the declining prices of crude oil in the world market.
He further accused the government of not taking any action against those who were involved in fraud and corruption during the previous regime.
“Most of those who hold high posts at CPSTL are crooks and have faced allegations of fraud and corruption. Some of them were directly involved in purchasing sub-standard oil. Although the UNP prior to the presidential election wanted a mandate to clean up all state institutions and bring efficient and reliable officials, none of their promises were fulfilled. All those who were involved in corruption have been allowed to stay in the same posts and they may have removed all the documents that prove such corruption in a bid to erase evidence,” Palitha alleged.
Ananda Palitha also blamed the CPSTL management for their failure to lay a new pipeline from the port to the Kolonnawa oil storage facility and the pipeline from Muthurajawela.
“In November more than 1000 litres of petrol went down the drain as there were severe ruptures along the pipeline and we had to compensate some parties. When the UNP was in the opposition they shouted against the Rajapaksa regime for not carrying out urgent repairs to these age-old pipelines but what have they done over the past fourteen months after coming into power?” Palitha queried.
However, refuting such allegations, Chairman CPSTL, Shehan Seneviratne said that the present Minister had not given a single appointment from his constituency and added that the recruitments were made on par with the cadre requirements.
“When we took over the administration there were 3,600 employees at CPSTL and we were able to bring it down to 3120. When there was a necessity we recruited 179 last week based on their talents and qualifications,” Seneviratne said.
Meanwhile Petroleum Resources Minister Chandima Weerakkody said the reason he cannot bring down fuel prices is due to the debts the CPC owes to banks.
“We have a debt of Rs.360 billion and we pay interest to the value of Rs.1.2 billion monthly. In addition Sri Lanka Railways, Sri Lanka Transport Board, Mihin Lanka, Sri Lankan Airlines, the tri forces and Ceylon Electricity Board owe us millions. Due to these reasons we cannot bring down fuel prices although the world crude oil prices have come down,” the Minister said.
He further explained how the previous regime had given fuel at a lower cost compared to the world oil prices.
“The government subsidised and that was a loss to the government. If we reduce fuel prices now it won’t benefit the people who do not have vehicles. The public transport costs too would not come down. That was what happened when this government reduced the fuel prices last year. The transport sector and businessmen got the benefit but it did not pass on to the general public who depend on public transport,” Minister Weerakkody added.