THE National Board of Revenue coming to impose restrictions on hiring of vehicles by its field offices from the current financial year is a welcome move. The revenue board issued an instruction on June 28 asking its field-level income tax, value-added tax and customs offices not to hire any vehicle without prior approval from the Finance Division. The instruction is, as NBR officials say, intended to prevent the misuse and mismanagement of public money in the process of hiring vehicles. The revenue board in the last financial year had to allocate Tk 9.62 crore for the income tax wing and Tk 12.61 crore for the VAT and customs wings for hired vehicles. While the field offices of the revenue board reportedly hire vehicles for discharging their official duties because of a marked shortage of government vehicles, allegations are there that a large sum of the money used for hiring vehicles are either misused or unwisely used. Addressing the issue of a shortage of vehicles, the instruction at hand has rightly asked its field offices to take immediate measures to purchase vehicles as required and approved by the Table of Organogram and Equipment.
The trend of hiring vehicles and spending large sums of public money in the process, however, do not fall on the revenue board alone, rather the trend is quite high in most government offices and projects. Mismanagement of funds allocated for hiring vehicles in different government offices and projects are also rife with cases of spending significant amount of money from government projects making the headlines many a time in the past. To mention a case in point, the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics hired 77 vehicles that cost Tk 148 crore in 2017 for a Tk 353 crore project. What is also concerning is the unabated trend of procuring and misusing luxury and other vehicles mostly from development funds. There is a marked propensity in government offices to procure luxury vehicles in greater number and allegations are there that the provision for procuring the vehicles is created deliberately. It is worrying that most of the luxury vehicles end up being used by the high-ups at the ministries, divisions and departments. The mismanagement in maintaining and using project vehicles once the projects are over is also customary. The government has reportedly been trying to rein in the misuse and to strengthen its transport pool, but so far no assuring change is visible.
While many government offices, especially field level offices, suffer from an acute shortage of vehicles, many departments and projects misuse funds for either hiring or procuring vehicles. The government must, in such a situation, have a mechanism in place to strictly maintain its transport pool and to ensure the procurement of vehicles where and when necessary. At the same time, the government must also stop the trend of hiring vehicles and of procuring unnecessary luxury vehicles and eventual misuse of them to save public money.
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