SLTB Flying Squad disbanded | Sunday Observer
Officials in organised public property theft:

SLTB Flying Squad disbanded

13 August, 2023

Minister of Transport, Highways, and Mass Media, Dr. Bandula Gunawardena has issued a direct order to the Chairman of the Sri Lanka Transport Board (SLTB), S.M.D.L.K. De Alwis to immediately halt the operations of the SLTB Flying Squad. The Minister has mandated De Alwis to initiate the setting up of a new Flying Squad within the week.

He said that the new Flying Squad must be given broader powers and that it should ensure a smooth running State-run bus service that is free of corruption by conducting efficient security checks on ticket dispensing in buses, monitoring the SLTB crews, and checking security in bus depots and stands.

This step was prompted by the Minister’s recent revelation that the SLTB has been incurring losses ranging from Rs. 2 million - Rs. 3 million daily owing to the proliferation of ticket fraud and other illicit activities within provincial long-distance bus services, affecting the Southern and Uva provinces.

The cumulative impact of these irregularities has resulted in a staggering loss estimated at approximately Rs. 720 million, as estimated by the Transport Ministry.

Ministry sources said that the Minister has become concerned after discovering that some Flying Squad officers had been a party to an organised public property theft. Investigations have revealed that in some cases, some officers had accepted bribes for not taking disciplinary action against SLTB bus conductors who were charged with not issuing tickets to commuters.

It has also been revealed that persons who are not employed by the SLTB had raided buses and intimidated conductors in connivance with former and current SLTB employees.

Some Flying Squad officers had also run an extortion racket in depots whereby they collected a monthly sum from drivers and conductors. In other cases, fraud was committed by issuing cash vouchers to police officers.

They had devised a system using a Smartphone Application (App) to inform the bus drivers and conductors of the places they would conduct raids and the whereabouts of the officers who conduct them in advance. Investigations revealed that some Flying Squad officers had intimidated employees under them in bus depots to collect money on their behalf. It was found that the productivity of the Squad was less than one percent and there is a huge discrepancy between the expenses incurred and the fines collected.

The sources said the Ministry could have prevented most of these frauds had the committee been appointed to look into possibilities of introducing digital ticketing in buses as per the Minister’s instructions and made the right decisions on time.

Amid the ongoing turmoil, even with the Minister’s initiative to operate buses without conductors, a disconcerting incident emerged on the Southern Expressway. Despite efforts to eliminate conductor-based operations, all 52 tickets, valued at Rs.950 each, issued for a bus route from Kadawatha to Galle were determined to be counterfeit. Subsequent to this discovery, the Kadawatha police promptly apprehended and detained the driver and conductor implicated in the fraud.

This incident follows a similar occurrence where a fake ticket fraud exceeding Rs. 40,000 was detected on a bus journey from Embilipitiya to Makumbura (Kottawa) on the Southern Expressway.