From its outset, the Treasury Bond Scam was seen as a massive fraud carried on public funds or people’s assets managed by the Central Bank. As the probe on the Bond Scams that took place shortly after the election of the present government in 2015, what the public saw was the crooked manipulation of the Central Bank, the repository of the liquid national assets, made possible by the appointment of a Governor whose interests were more that of Green Politics, than of the people and the country.
As the probe moves on to its final stages, the country is now seeing a different area of fraud that directly affects the several million employees in the private sector in the country, as well as a large number employed in the State institutions, that are not government departments. Apart from the larger national assets, we now see the hugely crooked and fraudulent manipulation of the savings of this wide mass of employees in the country, who have no right to state pensions.
It is the Employees’ Provident Fund – EPF – that manages the life’s savings of almost all non-state employees in the country that has been rigged by a combination of Treasury Bond dealers with the foul assistance of those in the EPF itself.
The EPF, established in 1958, and is described as the largest Social Security Scheme in the country, has said its aim as to “assure financial stability to the employee in the winter of life and to reward the employee for his or her role in the economic growth of the country.”
It states further that: “your investment in time and money is safe, sound and growing annually in the hands of the EPF, giving you peace of mind that you will be stable and able to provide for your family and loved ones in the latter part of life.
“Thus, you can rest assured that your future is a little bit more stable and secure with the Employees Provident Fund.”
The above is, in fact, a great promise, and one which the contributors to this fund, the non-state sector employees in their millions believed and trusted through all these years. It was known that the EPF balance of every member “keeps growing as you mature at your working environment as the cumulative balance in your EPF account, which is maintained by the Central Bank and is invested in Treasury Bills, Treasury Bonds, Equity, Corporate Debentures and Rupee Securities, etc. Depending on the rate of return, an annual interest rate is declared and credited to your account”.
There were questions raised at times, whether the EPF should invest in certain institutions or funds, but there was the belief that whatever was done, was in the best interests of the Fund, and therefore, of the members. The retirement benefits received, or the housing or marriage facilities obtained were looked upon with joyful expectation. In the past several years, the EPF was also seen as one of the most efficient and speedy institutions of the state, especially in dealing with its members and their needs.
But what do we have now? The Treasury Bond Scam has exposed the EPF as a major corrupt arm of that Primary Dealer – Perpetual Treasuries Limited – whose machinations of corruption are spread in all directions, with the Ministry and former Minister of Finance, State and Private Banks and distillers of alcohol, too.
What has the EPF been doing, and how has it lost much of the trust the public had in it, through its transactions in questionable Treasury Bond auctions? It does not bid at Primary Auctions for Treasury Bonds on one day, while having the funds to make a bid. A few days later, on the settlement day of the same auction, the EPF buys some of those bonds issued at the Primary Auction from the Secondary Market. This is buying it at a loss, which would not have taken place if it made the bid in the Primary auction. And, this did not happen just once. So who is to blame?
Has the Central Bank taken any action against its dealers who acted in this manner, and if not when will it do so?
What more do we hear now? That the same crooked Primary Dealer, the Perpetually Crooked, had one or more EPF Dealers on its payroll, especially code named “Charlie” who has/have been paid not less than Rs 97 million up to March 2015 – the time of those big rackets in primary auctions. Does it need much thinking to know how much of profit that Perpetually Crooked one would have made to pay Rs. 97 million to an informant from the EPF? How much would all this have really cost the EPF?
What does all this mean to those final profits that go to help the private sector employees, who have no pension, in the winter of their life?
Isn’t it time the trade unions in the private sector, especially key unions such as the Ceylon Mercantile Union and others, representing plantation workers to company employees, raised this issue and called for a much bigger and longer probe into the EPF, to ensure more stability and security for those awaiting retirement benefits from the EPF?
If the EPF is allowed to go on in this manner, it will lead to its members having a winter of discontent when they retire, which is not what the EPF was ever meant to be.
The EPF must not be allowed to continue anymore as the Employees’ Pickpocket Fund and not Provident Fund. The working people of the country need the surest assurance that the EPF is freed of all this corruption – from the government, politics and crooked business, and kept as the trusted and largest Social Security Service in the country. The EPF should also not be considered a Penthouse Fund, as some in government would want it to be.