CMC Bereft Of Millions
- Mayor purchases spanking new BMW
By Nirmala Kannangara
The Colombo Municipal Council (CMC) has failed to collect millions of rupees in entertainment taxes from recent mega musical shows performed by Bollywood stars in Colombo.
Sonu Nigam Live in Concert, Udith Narayan Live in Concert and the Carlton Rugby Super Seven 2012 musical show are the three concerts in question where the CMC has failed to collect their revenue.
As a result Colombo Mayor A. J. M. Muzammil has come under severe criticism from his own camp for not taking any action against the ‘powerful’ organizers of these events.
Sonu Nigam Live in Concert was organized by Shashi Weerawansa, wife of Construction, Engineering Services, Housing and Common Amenities Minister Wimal Weerawansa and Sudharma Neththikumara, wife of Chairman Salaka Group. This concert was held on February 18 at the CH & FC Grounds in Colombo and attended by a large crowd including First Lady Shiranthi Rajapaksa.
The Carlton Rugby Super Seven 2012 musical show was organized by the ‘Tharunyata Hetak’ headed by the President’s son Namal Rajapaksa and was held on June 2 and 3 at the Police Park in Colombo and attended by President Mahinda Rajapaksa and First Lady Shiranthi Rajapaksa.
Udith Narayan Live in Concert was organized by Balcony Fix to celebrate Sirasa TV’s 14th Anniversary. The concert was held on June 16 at the CH & FC Grounds in Colombo and attended by a large number of fans.
Although it is compulsory for the organizers of such events to comply with the CMC rules and regulations, questions have been raised as to why the CMC had failed to send their revenue officers to scrutinize such events to check whether the entrance tickets carried the CMC seal.
According to ruling UNP Municipal Councilors, it is the sole responsibility of the Mayor to see whether the council receives its revenue on time if not, take stern action against those who fail to discharge their duties.
“The CMC is only stern against those who do not pay their annual rates and taxes but is silent against the ‘powerful’ who evade paying entertainment taxes – one of CMC’s major source of income which amounts to several billions. In such a background how can we point our fingers to the government who is lethargic in carrying out its duties by the public,” alleged the UNP Councilors.
Meanwhile Azath Sally, Opposition CMC Member and former Deputy Mayor said that it is the sole responsibility of the Mayor to see whether his officers are keeping tabs on all entertainment events that are taking place in town.
“Gone are the days these organizers came to the CMC, furnish all the relevant details and made the necessary payments and got the clearance to hold such events. Now it is up to the CMC to keep an eye on to all these events and send the revenue officers to check whether the CMC regulations are followed,” said Sally.
According to Sally once an event organizer inform the council of their intend project it is up to the CMC to observe whether the council rules and regulations are followed. “Generally the organizers have to inform the public performance board and get the clearance certificate from the CMC to hold the show. In return the council has to contact the printer who prints the entrance tickets to find out as to how many tickets would be printed and what their denominations are. Once the tickets are printed these have to be brought to the CMC to get it stamped and the organizer has to pay the 10% entertainment tax to the value of each ticket,” said Sally.
According to Sally once the show is over, the organizer has to bring the remaining tickets back to the CMC and the 10% tax for the unsold tickets would be refunded by the CMC.
He further said that if the income of the show goes to a government approved charity, this entertainment tax would not be charged.
Sally further said as to how he, as the Deputy Mayor during 2001 -2006 went personally to the scene where a concert was held the previous day to collect the discarded tickets. “During 2001-2006 a particular Lions Club had a show with some Indian artists and they did not pay us the entertainment taxes. The following day I personally went to the site where this show was held together with some other Councillors and collected the discarded tickets to get a rough idea as to how many tickets have been sold and in what denominations. Then we sent a letter to the organizer to pay the entertainment taxes and since they failed to heed our requests we sent a letter of demand, filed a case and won it,” claimed Sally.
Meanwhile UNP CMC member Premjayantha Kasturiaratchi said he and three more councillors purchased Rs.5000 tickets at last week’s Udith Narayan Live in Concert to investigate as to how the organizers have cheated the CMC.
The organizer of the show ‘Balcony Fix’ got the CMC seal stamped only on 4000 tickets to the denominations of Rs. 1,000, Rs. 3,000, Rs.5,000 and Rs.7,500. Although I cannot exactly remember as to how many tickets worth of Rs.1,000 and 3,000 were brought to get stamped, only 300 tickets of Rs.5,000 and 175 tickets of Rs.7,500 denominations got stamped. However four of us were able to collect 8000 serial numbers of the discarded Rs.5,000 tickets at the ground. This clearly shows as to how the organizer has cheated the CMC and how the CMC has failed to send an investigative team,” said Kasturiaratchi.
Kasturiaratchi further said as to how the tickets they bought were sealed as ‘complimentary tickets’ at the entrance to the show.
“Had the CMC sent a team they would have caught the organizers on the spot. This is what is called ‘inefficiency’. The Mayor is idling and it is dis-heartening to see as to how our own members ‘work’ when in power. This is the time that we could show the government and the public how efficient the UNP is and as to how we do not allow people to hoodwink us. But sadly the Mayor cannot understand this. This would certainly affect the UNP further,” said Kasturiaratchi. He further said legal action have been taken against Shashi Weerawansa and Sudharma Neththikumara for their failure to pay Rs.9.5 lakhs as the entertainment taxes. “When they were questioned, we were told that proceeds of the show were used to build houses for the homeless. But up to now they have failed to show where these houses have been built and we came to know that not a single roofing sheet has been given to any homeless family. They too got the CMC to stamp 4000 entrance tickets but we have come to know that they have sold more then 30,000 tickets,” said Kasturiaratchi.
According to Kasturiaratchi, Tharunyata Hetak – the organizer of the Carlton Super Seven 2012 musical show has not sent any of their tickets for the CMC stamp.
“More than 35,000 tickets have been sold but not a single cent was paid to the CMC as entertainment tax. Why do we want a Mayor who is like a scarecrow? Why is he waiting for complaints to act against these organizers? The entire fault is the Mayor who is doing nothing to collect revenue,” said Kasturiaratchi.
Meanwhile a high ranking CMC employee on conditions of anonymity queries as to why the Mayor fails to send his officers to check these concerts. “He is not bothered whether the CMC gets revenue or not but has lots of ways and means to spend the council funds for his benefit. Now he is planning to purchase a BMW car worth of Rs. 16 million for his use. When asked as to why he intends to spend such a huge amount of CMC money for a car, he says that if a cabinet minister could spend over Rs. 40 million for an official vehicle, he (Muzamil) who is also on par with a cabinet Minister could also spent money for an official vehicle,” he said. However, A. J. M. Muzamil said that he has instructed the Municipal Treasurer to take action against those who have failed to comply with the CMC rules.
The Mayor said that he knew nothing about these concerts until it was raised at last week’s council meeting. “Organizers of Carlton musical show did not takeclearence from the CMC. Had they asked for it we would have asked them to bring the printed tickets. I came to know about this after the event was held. It is not my duty to see whether the revenues are collected but the Municipal Commissioner’s. I cannot check as to what is happening in the city every day. I am not the watchdog. Collecting revenue is administrative work and the Municipal Commissioner should handle them,” said Muzamil.
“I too have a duty to overlook these work, but I cannot be bothered to find out where these concerts are held. There are many more concerts in the city every day. Do you mean that I have to go behind all these people and hammer their heads if they have failed to abide by our regulations,” he added. However Muzamil said that he has asked the Treasurer to initiate action against the organizers of the Sonu Nigam Live in Concert and Udith Narayan Live in Concert. “Yes they have got our stamp only on 4,000 tickets each. Soon they would be brought to book for misleading the CMC,” he said. Meanwhile Municipal Commissioner Badrani Jayawardena said that she too knew nothing about these concerts. “I will have to call for a report from the Treasure,” she said.
All attempts to contact Municipal Treasurer K.D. Chitrapala failed.
I Don’t Know Why…
When Director, Tharunyata Hetak, Janaka Sri Warnasinghe was contacted to know as to why they failed to get the CMC seal stamped in Carlton Super Seven 2012 musical show entrance tickets, Warnasinghe said he knew nothing about it and wanted to contact General Secretary, Tharunyata Hetak, Piyum Perera who is the authorized officer to talk to the media.
“Please contact Piyum Perera on Monday as he is out of the country now,” said Warnasinghe. Meanwhile Sandun Thenuwara and Carmen Thenuwara, Partners of ‘Balcony Fix’ the organizer of the Udith Narayan Live in Concert denied CMC allegations and added that they had paid Rs.6 lakhs as the entertainment tax.
“We only printed 5,000 tickets and got the CMC seal stamped on them. We know as to why the CMC is making baseless allegations solely because we did not bribe them. So many council members from the ruling and opposition parties wanted to have deals with us failing which allegations are leveled now. We paid Rs.6 lakhs on June 8 and we are yet to get the money back for the unsold tickets,” said Thenuwara.
Meanwhile Thenuwara further said as to how Mayor Muzammil walked to the office of their media sponsors Sirasa on Monday June 11 asking them to pay the entertainment tax.
“Even though we have paid the taxes the Mayor still walked to Sirasa requesting them to pay the taxes. We are not sure as to why he made such a request – whether he did not know what was happening at the council or whether he came for any other reason,” said Thenuwara.