THE roads and highway department is plagued with irregularities and corruption. The Anti-Corruption Commission has found, as reported in New Age on Monday, a number of engineers and other officials of the department are building sub-standard roads to misappropriate public money. In collusion with influential persons and contractors, they used low-grade bricks, bitumen, sand, brick chips and brick powder without maintaining aggregate crushing value specified in the tenders. In the report of the commission, it has observed irregularities in all phases — pre-construction, construction and post-constriction — of the road management process. It also pointed out that, even after the introduction of electronic system, there are irregularities in awarding tender. The commission’s observations rings true as different cabinet members have mentioned it recently. Earlier on January 16, when talking about the expansion of Dhaka-Sylhet Highway, the finance minister said, the company awarded the contract had bribed government officials. In August 2017, the road transport and bridges minister directed the authorities concerned to withdraw executive engineer of roads and highways department of Sirajganj for his alleged neglect in road management. Meanwhile, the secretary of the division said, it will take actions against corrupt officials, if found guilty. In the prevailing context, the report of the commission with 21 recommendations to improve the situation is a welcome move. However, the government needs to step up its game and prove its mettle for fighting pervasive corruption in the department.
The battered conditions of roads and highways and are frequently reported. Last year’s flood and excessive rains washed out 4.9 kilometres highway and inundated 67.2 kilometres highways. The road transport in three hilly districts was disconnected at 251 spots in landslides and moreover 5015km highways were damaged in flood. In the current fiscal year, this division has taken 186 projects for repair works and 125projects under annual development programme. The public is yet to enjoy the outcome of these projects. It is not uncommon that long-route passengers are stuck on the road for hours. Most parts of the Comilla-Chandpur regional highway, as reported in New Age on Saturday, is in very bad shape, leading to immense sufferings for passengers travelling on this road everyday. Normally it takes two hours for commuters to travel the 70-kilometer road stretch, but nowadays it takes longer than four hours. Dilapidated road condition causes damage and breaking down of numerous vehicles on this regional highway. There are many other similar instances of battered roads. Therefore, it is absolutely not enough for the concerned authorities to just say that ‘it will take action.’
It is time that the government took aggressive measures to end public suffering on the highways. It must bring the vested quarter involved in misappropriating public money allocated for the construction and management of roads and highways. In doing so, it must immediately act on the recommendations made by the commission.
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