Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera has ordered Excise Commissioner General H.G. Sumanasinghe to conduct an immediate investigation into the issuing of liquor licenses in 2017 and 2018 by the Excise Department without getting his approval and report to him within two weeks.
The Finance Ministry in a statement said the protocol followed so far by the Excise Department when issuing liquor licenses is to obtain the approval of the Subject Minister or inform the Subject Minister in that regard.
The Excise Department has issued 10 new liquor licenses in 2017 and 74 new liquor licenses in 2018. However, it is reported, as described under the Provisions of the Excise Ordinance, the approval of the Subject Minister was not obtained nor was he informed of these new issuances.
Under the Excise Ordinance, at the discretion of the Subject Minister, he or she can decide whether to issue, renew or cancel any liquor license or licenses at any time he or she decides to do so without any explanation.
Accordingly, H.G. Sumanasinghe said that an investigation has already been instituted on the liquor licenses which have been issued without obtaining the approval of the Subject Minister or without informing him during the years 2017 and 2018.
He said action will be taken to cancel all such licenses issued in these two years, if found to be issued without fulfilling the eligibilities specified under the Provisions of the Excise Ordinance or any corruption has been taken place in issuing such licenses by these investigations.
Sumanasinghe also said no new distillery permits were issued and reports published by certain electronic and print media that the Excise Department has been taking steps to issue four new licenses to set up distillery factories are completely false.
He reiterated that no such new licenses have been issued for distillery factories during this year.