THE open market sales initiative that the government has launched to protect financially vulnerable groups amidst soaring goods prices has, as New Age reported on Saturday, come to defeat its purpose mostly because of corruption involving the OMS dealers and some food officials involved in its monitoring. The government has rolled since March 637 open market sales outlets, mounted on trucks, with 120 of them being in the capital, to sell rice and flour at subsidised prices to poor people. But the dealers have devised various tricks to deprive the poor of the coarse rice and the flour meant for them and sell the stocks later on the black market to maximise their profits. Each of the OMS dealers get one tonne of rice and two tonnes of flour from the government every day to sell them by five kilograms to every buyer between 9:00am and 5:00pm without any break. A calculation suggests that at this rate, it would take 600 buyers a day for the full daily allocation to be sold out. But OMS dealers are reported to sell the stock short hours because of poor or no monitoring of the OMS sales at all.
OMS dealers start the day’s sales one to three hours behind the schedule, sell the stocks barely for one to two hours, with a break for lunch, and leave the designated places with the unsold stock up to three hours before the schedule. Yet the dealers, with the connivance of food officials responsible for sales oversight, show that they have sold out the fully daily stock to the intended group of people. The stocks left unsold are then sold on the black market, depriving the poor of what is meant for them. The irregularities, which have become widespread, have failed the OMS programme because of a weak oversight mechanism. While Dhaka’s chief rationing controller, who admitted to having some shortcomings, seeks to brush aside the happening as ‘minor deviations by the dealers’ and by food officials, the additional director general of food says that the allegations cannot be brushed aside outright. Transparency International, Bangladesh, however, describes the irregularities as ‘glaring examples of corruption’ that foils a good government initiative. The situation calls out the government on immediately identifying the loopholes in the process, which are mostly related to oversight mechanism, and plug them so that the open sales market initiative truly benefits the target group of financially vulnerable people.
A situation like this which is infested with corruption heavily harms, and largely renders ineffective, the social security measure to provide the poor with protection of a sort from soaring goods prices. The government, under the circumstances, must, therefore, take up the allegations of irregularities seriously and institute an investigation to hold to account the people that are involved in the corrupt practice. While this will help the poor, for whom the initiatives have been taken, this will also stop the plundering of public money by way of OMS stock being sold on the black market.
Want stories like this in your inbox?
Sign up to exclusive daily email
More Stories from Editorial