A top union has called for the appointment of an independent commission reporting to parliament on the use of monies belonging to the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) to save it from further plunder.
“This body that would include non political parties and independent trade union representation as well should have a complete and thorough investigation into all transactions, investments, transfers of money related to the EPF, completed within three months from date of establishing the commission. We thus wish to propose the getting together of the broadest possible trade union alliance in demanding such investigations, in saving the workers' EPF from plunder,” said Anton Marcus, Joint Secretary of the Free Trade Zones & General Services Employees Union (FTZGSEU).
The statement said that corruption in managing Sri Lanka's largest social security fund – EPF - under the Central Bank (CB), with the Department of Labour also responsible for administrative functions, has over the past few years grown into massive proportions, with the government using the EPF to boost its sagging economy. This fund is now used as the single largest entity, in investing in the Colombo Stock Exchange.
In February, this year opposition MPs promised in parliament that they would call the CB Governor and EPF management officials to the COPE, to answer questions on corruption and fraud related to the EPF. This was after EPF monies were used to purchase heavily-inflated shares of Laugfs, Ceylon Grain Elevators and Galadari Hotel. The EPF under its Act No.19 of 1958, as interpreted and defined by the Attorney General in 2002, can only invest in listed blue chip companies. It cannot invest in (small) companies like Laugfs.
Yet there are no reports on whether the CB Governor and EPF officials were called in front of the COPE or what happened at the COPE and thereafter. Last week, once again the opposition claimed in parliament, it would present a motion in parliament, exposing massive frauds in the EPF and call for investigations. Meanwhile, the Auditor General has queried about Rs 3.4 billion rupees that had been in arrears and recovered in 2010, but has not been transferred to the EPF by the Commissioner General of Labour.
The EPF is not merely the largest social service fund in Sri Lanka with over a trillion rupees in its accounts, but it is also money belonging to 11 million wage earners in private, state corporations and co-operative sectors, with over 2.3 million contributing members in 2010.