Controversy surrounds the top heavy government’s decision to increase the monthly fuel allowance of personal staff of Ministers, Governors and Chief Ministers amidst soaring cost of living fuelled by steep increase in fuel prices.
After repeated representations made by government members, the SLFP-led ruling coalition has sharply increased the fuel allowance with effect from April 1.
All of them have been provided with official cars at the taxpayers’ expense. Among the recipients of the latest benefit are wives of politicians, their brothers, sons, relatives and close business associates.
Well informed sources said the Presidential Secretariat had informed Secretaries to Ministries, Provincial Councils and Governors of the decision. The sources said this would benefit private secretaries, coordinating secretaries, media secretaries and public relations officers on the staff of Ministers, Governors and Chief Ministers.
The same benefit has been extended to private secretaries, coordinating secretaries and public relations officers on the staff of Deputy Ministers and Provincial Council Ministers.
According to the new scheme, private secretaries of both politicians and officials would receive 240 litres of petrol or diesel, the sources said. Others would receive 218 litres of petrol or diesel, the sources said. An official said this would ensure the beneficiaries would receive their quota of petrol or diesel irrespective of the local market prices.
A litre of petrol marketed by CPC and LIOC costs Rs. 157.
But a litre of diesel sold by CPC costs Rs. 110 while the LIOC product costs Rs. 20 more.
The sources said that under the previous scheme, the officials were given either petrol or diesel worth a fixed amount. This would automatically reduce the actual amount of fuel allowance with the periodic increase in the price in the local market.
Lalith Weeratunga, Secretary to the President, in a letter dated April 23 has informed the relevant authorities of the directive. The Island has received a copy of the directive. Except for a few, the entire ruling party parliamentary group is entitled for this facility.
Eastern Province Chief Minister Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan’s personal staff, too, would be entitled for this facility along with his ministers.
Well informed sources said the last increase of petrol and diesel prices and growing public protests had forced the Treasury to review the decision on the scheme introduced for the benefit of the people.