A LACK of maintenance, accountability and monitoring, coupled with a penchant for procurement, has come to take a heavy toll on the buses under the Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation. Most buses in the BRTC fleet fall, as New Age reported on Monday, into disuse long before the expiry date of their economic life as they are poorly maintained. The corporation, which purchased a total of 3,611 buses since the 1972–1973 financial year, now has a total of 1,876 buses in its fleet; out of which 1,356 are in a serviceable condition, 250 are undergoing heavy repair and 270 are beyond economic repairs. Out of the 2,214 buses, purchased in the last two decades at an approximate cost of Tk 1,300 crore, only 1,283 buses are in operation while 338 are completely out of the fleet, 388 need heavy repair and 167 are beyond economic repairs. Many buses purchased in the last decade, with an economic life expectancy of about 15 years, have already fallen into disuse. All this suggests a glaring maintenance failure and wastage of public money. BRTC chairman seeks to say that the corporation has a lack of capacity to monitor the maintenance of the buses and that there are officials in the corporation who are involved in irregularities such as not maintaining the buses properly and stealing parts and fuel.
Besides poor maintenance of the buses, the corporation’s tendency to procure new buses, even though there is an acute shortage of drivers, at regular intervals betrays a pattern that has worryingly become common in most government agencies. Procurement of buses are alleged to be a source of embezzling public money by a section of officials of the corporation and of the ministry concerned. While the corporation has routinely failed to address, transport experts say, the most pressing issues, it has gone for purchasing new buses even when many serviceable buses remain stationed because of a shortage of drivers. At present, the corporation has, keeping to its data, 2,250 drivers while it requires 3,051 drivers to run their services properly — each bus needs 2.25 drivers to ensure proper services. What is worrying is that when serviceable buses are kept out of service they soon become out of order, which is believed to have happened to many buses. The corporation has long left the issue of driver shortage little attended to. It is unacceptable that the corporation, which has three driving training institutes and 17 training centres across the country, has not been able to recruit the required number of drivers and train them properly to make the fleet live up to people’s expectation.
The corporation must, under the circumstances, attend to the issue of poor maintenance of the buses in its fleet. The corporation must also recruit the required number of drivers and train them properly. The government must inquire into the allegations of irregularities in the procurement of buses. A service agency must not fail to deliver its services and must not become a platform for a section of officials to make money.
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