THE public works and housing ministry and the Public Works Department being reported to have been mired in serious corruption and irregularities, as New Age reported on Thursday quoting from Anti-Corruption Commission documents, is what negates the relevant minister’s claim that the ministry maintains a zero-tolerance approach towards corruption. If the ministry had been serious enough to have attended to the issues in time, the commission’s findings would have by now been different. The commission, which employed a three-member team to work on the issue for more than a year, finds that corruption and irregularities taking place in 10 ways have plagued the agencies, spanning from working out the tender specifications to the maintenance period of projects. The highest level of corruption that takes place is in the tender process as some corrupt officials lay out the tender specification, setting aside the standard procedures, to advantage certain quarters. The people involved in laying out the specification also include some conditions to leave out the companies not in their good books. Such a process also involves making the estimation of the cost higher than the normal.
Some officials keep the project cost below Tk 300 million as the department or project chiefs can have the projects approved without the consent of the ministry. The procurement of articles for the housing projects of the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant that made the headlines for spending abnormal amount on articles is reported to have carried by way of six projects, with none having involved more than Tk 300 million. The Public Works Department is found to have used substandard and low-grade materials in building and renovation works and the ministry is found to be withholding funds for some projects while unnecessarily dishing out allocations for some other projects. Irregularities are found to have taken place through the ‘management’ of engineers and officials as a cooperative arrangement of officials, employees, politicians and contractors is reported to have been active to promote their mutual interest. The public works and housing ministry and all its departments are responsible for almost all public infrastructure of the country and they, therefore, deal with a huge amount of public money. It is, therefore, imperative that the ministry should steer clear of any corruption and irregularities as much because of its importance in dealing with a huge amount of public money as because of its association with other government agencies that may easily be drawn into corruption because of the corruption in this ministry.
The commission has handed in the minister concerned 20 suggestions to mend the ways corruption takes place in the ministry in efforts to stop corruption. The minister, who welcomed the commission’s initiative, is also reported to have said that the commission’s recommendation would work as guidelines for the ministry to fight corruption in itself and in all agencies under it. The minister then professed the ministry’s policy of zero tolerance towards corruption, which the commission’s findings belie. While it is expected that the Anti-Corruption Commission, after an enquiry for more than a year, would set out an investigation on its own, it is time the minister proved that the talk of zero tolerance of corruption is more than empty rhetoric.
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