The Anti-Corruption Commission on Sunday filed a case accusing 61 people – 15 Water Development Board officials and 46 contractors – or corruption in haor embankment project in Sunamganj.
The commission also arrested suspended water board executive engineer of Sunamganj M Afsar Uddin and contractor M Bacchu Mia at Motijheel in Dhaka few hours after the filing of the case, said commission secretary Abu M Mustafa Kamal.
The accused water board officials are holding positions ranging from superintendent engineer to section officer, the commission secretary told reporters at his office.
The commission also decided to send the report of the three-member inquiry team of the commission to the ministry concerned recommending departmental action against 14 top officials of the ministry and the water board, a commission director general said.
The 14 officials included water resources ministry senior secretary Zafar Ahmed Khan, additional secretary Mohammad Ali Khan, joint secretaries for haor Nuzhat Yasmin, Kazi Obaidur Rahman, Shamim Ara Khatun and Kholilur Rahman, joint chief Mantu Kumar Biswas and Water Development Board director general M Jahangir Kobir and additional director general AKM Momtajuddin, the commission official said.
The commission secretary said that the 14 officials were not named in the first information report as the commission did not found their direct involvement in the corruption but negligence.
Commission’s assistant director M Faruk Ahmed filed the case with Sunamganj sadar police station.
According to the complaint, the water development board officials given work orders for 84 projects without tender in 2016-17 to the contractors, who had failed to finish the works in 2015-16.
It said that the officials did it breaching the rules although they were aware of the possibility of flash flood in the area that caused huge losses in the haor region.
It said that the officials helped the contractors in the embezzlement of the projects’ money as they partially completed works in 151 projects while 9 projects remained untouched.
The complaint said that although the authority was empowered to cancel the agreements, realise compensation and blacklist the contractor firms for such offences, they allowed the firms to continue the projects following ‘carryover’ system.
It said that the commission suspected that the firms intentionally waited for rains or flash flood to realise bills without completing the projects submitting false bills and vouchers.
The complaint said that the water board officials were responsible for the losses faced by the farmers and common people in the haor areas.
The inquiry however failed to found the financial losses, Mustafa Kamal said, adding that the commission would assign an officer to investigate the case within a day or two who would assess the financial losses incurred by the government.
Former caretaker government adviser M Hafizuddin Ahmed told New Age that same action should be taken against all the people responsible.
‘Filing case against junior officials and recommending departmental action against senior officials for the same offence is not justice,’ he added.
Transparency International Bangladesh executive director Iftekharuzzaman said that the commission would loss peoples’ trust if it failed to take legal action against all the perpetrators irrespective of their position.
He suggested that the commission should investigate the case more professionally.
The commission initiated the inquiry in April following media reported that huge money for the construction of embankments in the Sunamganj haor areas was embezzled in the past two years.
Flash floods already caused losses of about Tk 80 billion destroying standing boro rice on three-fourths of the land in the country’s haor belt, as per an estimate by Paribesh O Haor Unnayan Sangstha.