BRTC losses signal larger systemic flaws

Published: 00:00, Feb 04,2019

 
 

THE state-owned Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation is largely mired in mismanagement and corruption. In the 2017 financial year, the agency’s losses reached Tk 4.73 crore. It incurred loss in 2018 as well and is now struggling to pay its workers. In January, transport workers at the agency’s Joar Sahara depot in Dhaka went on strike to push for their payment in arrears Passengers often complain that buses are run-down and unfit. In April 2017, two BRTC buses were fined by the Road Transport Authority for having no fitness certificate. BRTC buses coming to be responsible for fatal traffic accident is also not rare. The death of college student Rajib Hossain in a traffic accident involved a BRTC bus. It is, therefore, not a surprise that passengers have lost confidence in BRTC services. The road transport and bridges minister too has recently acknowledged that the corporation does not have good reputation as corruption has long reigned supreme in the agency.
The BRTC has been incurring losses for the past three financial years. Its officials list the burden of salary of their staff and failure to include buses in their fleet as primary contributing factors that has turned the state enterprise into a loss-making entity. The striking transport workers, however, do not agree with the views of the officials. They insist that it is the corruption that has created this situation. The salaries and benefits of a BRTC depot employee have, now, to be paid from the earnings of that depot, the lion’s share of which comes from leasing out buses to private entities. This business model has proved to be unsuccessful. Moreover, most BRTC buses are in a rickety condition. Work for a Better Bangladesh Trust terms this model ill-conceived as it makes the buses rundown a few years after procurement and does not have scope of profit-sharing with the staff and workers. Procurement decisions and process have also been reported to be corrupt. There are allegations that BRTC officials often discourage or cancel its services on certain routes to afford profit to private transport companies. It is in this context the statement of the minister comes short of providing a solution which he is expected to do as the top official in the sector.
The long-standing problems of poor management, retrograde planning and deep-seated corruption that have turned the BRTC into a loss-making entity despite regular cash and resources injections could be easily prevented if the corporation readily addressed the problems. To garner good reputation, the government needs to do more than buying new vehicles and installing new software to ensure deposits of its earning. It must establish accountability in all layers of its service delivery mechanism.

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