The Sri Lanka Government Railways is now on the verge of derailment packed with corrupt practices, irregularities and anti-establishment acts, which had bungled Rs.9 billion at public cost, reliable sources reveal to The Nation.
Statistics from the General Treasury indicate that the annual income of the railway is only Rs.4.5 billion though it spends Rs.9 billion annually to pay salaries and perks.
Corrupt practices including the payment of exorbitant amounts as overtime, mainly to drivers and guards inflate the salaries and overtime bill beyond any reasonable doubt. For instance the majority of drivers or guards monthly earnings are often Rs.100,000 to Rs.120,000 although their monthly salary without the perks is about Rs. 18,000 to 20,000.
Most of the railway employees agreed that the payment of excessive overtime was one of the main causes for the losses made by the railways, but most administrators did not wish to reduce it due to the fear of strikes. Though engine drivers in other countries drive about 600 kilometers per day our Railways Department assigns about four drivers to cover a journey of about 400 kilometers. For instance, a driver on a train from Matara to Colombo gets off at Galle where another driver takes over up to Colombo. The third driver takes the same train from Colombo to Kandy. There are also other serious flaws in administration. If, for instance, there was an electric supply failure in a railway station about 50 – 60 miles from Colombo, an electrician and an assistant are sent from Colombo to look into the problem. What they do is to inspect the problem at that end and return to Colombo to report the problem.
They attend to the problem only on the second visit and for all these hours spent in traveling up and down, overtime and other expenses are paid.
The annual expenditure reports of the railways for the years 2010 and 2011 had not been prepared and submitted so far to the relevant authorities while this loss making institution had recruited 2,171 employees, who were not given any designation, railway employees said.
Most railway employees said the cost of repairing railway lines, selling secondhand metal and other discarded goods were also done to cause greater losses, and if such losses could be cut and proper personnel management implemented, railways could be made a profit making venture.