By Maleesha Sulthanagoda
Three drivers working for former SriLankan Airlines Chairman Nishantha Wickramasinghe earned hundreds of thousands of rupees in overtime and other payments, with no official oversight to check if their work claims were verified, a top official told the Presidential Commission yesterday.
SriLankan Airlines Company Secretary Dalrene Thirukumar, appearing before the Presidential Council of Inquiry (PCoI) into fraud and misconduct in SriLankan Airlines (SLA), SriLankan Catering Ltd and Mihin Lanka Ltd, provided evidence demonstrating that the three drivers who worked under ex-Chairman Nishantha Wickramasinghe logged in dozens of overtime (OT) hours earning exorbitant salaries.
According to Thirukumar, the drivers, who were earning a basic salary in the range of Rs. 50,000 to Rs. 120,000, apparently clocked in OT hours which amounted to OT salaries in the range of Rs. 70,000 to Rs. 140,000 per month. The evidence provided also pointed out that these drivers were also entitled to other privileges, such as uniform allowances, tea allowances, and shift allowances.
The drivers worked for the Chairman for seven years between 2008 and 2015. The Commission heard that one of the Grade Three drivers had clocked in 23 hours of work per day during June 2012, while the Grade Four driver had logged in 18 hours per day in the same month, yet both drivers were assigned to one car. Wickramasinghe had two cars, with his main vehicle being a Benz E200 and a Toyota Hilux VIGO as backup, but the latter was rarely used, usually only when the Benz was being serviced.
“Out of the three drivers, one of them was a Grade Four driver and the others were Grade Three drivers. The basic salary of the Grade Four driver was Rs. 120,000. Out of the two Grade Three drivers, one earned a basic salary of Rs. 78,545 while the other made Rs. 48,524. The highest OT paid to the Grade Four driver was Rs. 139,337 in February 2012. During the same month, one Grade Three driver earned an OT salary of Rs. 71,987. In June 2012, the Grade Four driver and Grade Three driver both made Rs. 121,734 and Rs. 138,825 in OT. The monthly compensation of the drivers also includes shift allowances, Poya Day pay, uniform allowances, tea allowances, Poya Day OT, night-shift allowances, and more,” Thirukumar said.
The Company Secretary also noted that the OT salary provided to the Grade Three driver was significantly decreased when he went on to work under the newly appointed Chairman.
“The OT paid to one of the Grade Three drivers had a significant reduction when he went on to work under the newly appointed Chairman. While the driver earned OT of Rs. 46,000 and Rs. 93,620 in July 2014 and January 2015 under Chairman Wickramasinghe, he only earned about Rs. 15,000 from March 2015 onwards under Chairman Ajith Dias,” she added.