Samurdhi runs into survey hurdleView(s):
By Kasun Warakapitiya
Collecting information related to Samurdhi recipients has been delayed because some public sector employees have refused to do a survey citing legislation they say will hold them responsible for inaccurate data that people may give.
About 15,000 Samurdhi Development Officers, Grama Sevakas, economic development officers and management assistants, have backed out.
However, Finance State Minister Sehan Semasinghe said public sector officials will do the survey.
He said discussions had been held with Samurdhi Development Officers unions and they were told that the Samurdhi Authority Act cannot be amended. The Attorney General’s advice had been that officials who collect data in good faith would not be affected by the Act, but that legal actions as well as penalties would be imposed on those who provide incorrect details.
Mr Semasinghe said that while those eligible are waiting for Samurdhi, there are some who are obtaining it by giving false details.
He said the International Monetary Fund is watching the actions of the Government. The survey has to be done as soon as possible.
The State Minister of Social Empowerment, Anupa Pasqual said a survey on the Samurdhi beneficiaries has been delayed because Samurdhi Development Officers have refused to collect data and demand that the Act be amended.
Mr Pasqual said that even though he could have intervened, the trade unions have not notified him about their matter in writing.
The Samurdhi Development Officers unions complained that the Act is putting unnecessary responsibility onto state officials. Officials who collect data of Samurdhi beneficiaries and applicants should not be held liable, including to a one year imprisonment and a fine of Rs 10,000.
The All Island Samurdhi Development Officers and Agriculture Research Officers Union’s Jagath Kumara Sumithraarachchi said Samurdhi development officers, Grama Sevakas and development officers’ unions have come to a common understanding that they will not collect data unless the Act is amended.
He added that according to Act’s articles 22 and 23, if an official had collected false information and Samurdhi payments are granted, then the amount paid will be charged from the official. Even legal action could be taken against him. “We cannot be responsible for the actions of the people. It is not officials doing the survey who give false information.’’
The general secretary of the Samurdhi Development Officers Union, Chamara Maddumakaluge said that the Government is doing a survey to cut Samurdhi and is imposing strict regulations on officials to collect information of recipients.
“They are going to cut Samurdhi, but to do that, they would be paying Rs 300 to collect data. When the amounts add up, the Government is spending a huge amount of money to carry out a survey,’’ he said.
He added the union, too, withdrew from the survey and is planning an island-wide protest at District Secretariats and selected provincial secretariats on Monday.
The Department of Samurdhi Development said it could not comment since the director general is abroad.
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