THE dilemma that Anti-Corruption Commission investigators are reported to have been faced with about the completion of the case of the disappearance of 1,48,000 tonnes of coal, worth Tk 2.3 billion, from the Barapukuria Coal Mining Company Ltd, which was detected in July 2018, is as worrying as the reason that caused the dilemma is. Immediately after the theft of the coal had been detected, the commission on July 23 set up a committee to investigate the matter. The company’s manager (administration) the next day filed a case with the police against 19 officials, including former managing director of the company, and the case was later forwarded for a commission investigation. Three other committees — by Petrobangla or the Bangladesh Oil, Gas and Mineral Corporation, the energy ministry and the Prime Minister’s Office — were set up in July that year. None of the reports — one submitted to the Prime Minister’s Office, another to the energy ministry and the other still lying with Petrobangla — has so far been made public, but the technical investigation committee that Petrobangla set up identified the theft or disappearance as ‘systems loss’ as the mining company board on December 6, 2018 viewed the theft of such a huge amount of coal as ‘systems loss’, giving birth to the crux of the problem in investigation.
The commission’s investigators are reported have been confused about what ‘systems loss’ could be and what the theft was. Will it be ethical to describe the disappearance or theft of such a huge amount of coal as ‘systems loss’? The commission has to look into if the theft of such a huge amount of coals can be categorised as ‘systems loss’, which experts, as New Age reported on Monday, also resented, especially when the state minister for energy after the theft, as was reported then, sought to blame Petroangla for not maintaining the inventory since the mine went into operation in 2006. The commission initially imposed a travel ban on at least 35 Petrobangla officials, including 19 accused in the case, but the government took no action but suspending an unspecified number of officials. But while some of the accused still keep working in the same positions, some others have been given other charges and yet some of them have been promoted. The accused still working their previous positions, being given other charges and being promoted only speaks of reward rather than punishment. The issue can be likened to the situation in the banking sector where many who are reported to have been responsible for such a weak state of the state-owned banks have rather been rewarded than punished.
The investigation, under the circumstances, should in no way be stalled just because the mining company board and the Petrobangla committee described the theft as ‘systems loss’ and the investigators must establish the reason for the ‘systems loss’ of such a huge amount of coal as the issue relates to national resources. The government must also hold to account the Petrobangla authorities for giving reward to the accused instead of punishing them after credible investigation.
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