CONSUMERS of public services are subjected to corruption. The Anti-Corruption Commission and civic groups have recorded various forms of corruption that consumers face in seeking utility services. A recent Transparency International, Bangladesh survey shows that about 62 per cent service-seekers face corruption and other irregularities in the Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority. In another report, the Anti-Corruption Commission has recorded how Titas Gas Transmission and Distribution Company staff indulge in corruption. The government continues to preach zero tolerance towards corruption yet consumers seeking state-run services keep facing corruption. Bangladesh has, meanwhile, gone down by six notches in the global Corruption Perceptions Index 2018 for lack of effective government measures against corruption. In South Asia, Bangladesh ranked the second lowest, only ahead of war-torn Afghanistan. The government has, therefore, to do much to improve the situation.
The TIB report records how governance challenges have costly consequences. Since DWASA fails to provide safe drinking water, 91 per cent consumers boil water for drinking and in the process, gas worth Tk 332 crore is burnt annually that could have been saved. A large number of WASA consumers also suffer because of waterborne diseases as the supply water quality remains poor. Irregularities in recruitment process and lack of proper monitoring have produced an unwilling and corrupt work force that fails to ensure safe water. The ACC report, given to the energy ministry, mentions 22 ways whereby Titas Gas staff engage in corruption such as not legalising illegal connections, refusal to take steps against vested interests giving illegal connections or meter tampering. This is not the first report from either the corruption watchdog or the commission on corruption in state-run entities. In 2017, a TIB survey reported that 76 per cent applicants for passports fell victim to corruption during police verification. In March 2018, the commission in a report on the Roads and Highways Department showed irregularities in all phases of the road management process and said that a number of engineers and other officials of the department build sub-standard roads to misappropriate public money. On every occasion, along with report on corruption of government officials, they have also made recommendations. However, the government’s responses have so far been of denial. In what follows, the citizens concerned are not wrong when they say that between empty promises and blunt denial, the political party in power for the third consecutive terms has curved out space for unabated corruption.
The government, therefore, must immediately take strict action against the corrupt officials of DWSSA and Titas and prevent any future plundering of public money. The conscientious section of society must continue to raise its voice against corruption and demand public audit of all state-run entities to take the government to task.
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