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Presidential criticism of Customs: DG promises automation in 5 months

By Hiranyada Dewasiri

 

Following President Gotabaya Rajapaksa singling out Sri Lanka Customs for severe criticism, Customs Director General Maj. Gen. (Retd.) Vijitha Ravipriya has pledged to automate systems within Customs to eliminate corruption and to increase efficiency within five months.

The President criticised Customs for failing to adequately eliminate corruption and inefficiency, and Maj. Gen. Ravipriya told The Morning yesterday (24) that systems are being put in place to combat these issues.

“What the President was referring to was that the essential steps to combat inefficiency and corruption in Sri Lanka Customs have not been taken yet. The automation of the Customs system will be completed and be fully operational in four to five months, and we would be able to see a lot of changes then.”

During the “Gama Samaga Pilisandara” programme held in Kalutara on 23 January, the President raised concerns that although he has taken steps to make Maj. Gen. Ravipriya the Head of Customs, the progress the President had envisioned has not been achieved yet.

He said that eliminating inefficiency in the public service is one of the requests of the people and that several measures have been taken to eradicate corruption and inefficiency at the Customs, for example. The President said he is determined to do away with such malpractices by going to the extent of removing officials who stand in the way of its success.

Commenting further on the alleged corruption in Customs, Maj. Gen. Ravipriya claimed that changing individual officials will not change the corruption situation that is deeply rooted in an aged system.

“The system has functioned this way for about 160 years and therefore cannot be changed overnight,” he said.

Adding that changes should be made in a steady and careful manner, Maj. Gen. Ravipriya claimed that the automation of Customs functions, which would minimise in-person interactions, would result in a systemic change. He said that stern action will be taken against importers who allegedly invite corruption and bribe Customs officials in order to increase profits.

Sri Lanka Customs initiated the automation of its systems in March 2020. Maj. Gen. Ravipriya noted that this system allowed the institution to not close down during the pandemic.