PUBLIC universities have started making the headlines for all the wrong reasons — financial corruption, intended and committed. It is the Chittagong Medical University that hogged the headlines in the first week of October for having sent a detailed project proposal, which was duly rejected by the Planning Commission, with abnormally high pricing set for articles and apparatus for the university. It is now Jaitya Kabi Kazi Nazrul Islam University in Mymensingh that has a group of eight teachers and officials of the university and an additional secretary of the education ministry set to visit Switzerland and Spain for 10 days, from October 20 to 29, to inspect 15 lifts that the university has already bought from Schindler Management Ltd through its local distributor Creative Engineers Ltd. The team is composed of the treasurer, registrar, deans of arts and business, an associate professor of finance and banking, a proctor, the planning and development director and a deputy chief engineer from the university staff. The vice-chancellor, however, stayed off the visit amidst criticism that has so far mounted. The university seeks to say that as it has no experts, the teachers and officials are going to Switzerland, where the lifts are kept, and Spain, from where the lifts would be shipped, for inspection.
But allegations have come up from among the university officials that none of the nine prospective visitors are technically qualified for the inspection of lifts. While the veracity of the allegations becomes largely evident on a cursory glance at the positions of the people included in the team, such a visit would, anyway, be an unnecessary exercise even if the university had experts qualified for lift inspection as the lifts could be examined once they would reach the university. This appears more so as the lifts have been bought under a contract signed three years ago. What it rather betrays is elements of financial corruption which is concerning. The vice-chancellor seeks to say that the suppliers would pay for the visit but in that event, a proposition that the supplier has already included the cost of the visits in the price of the lifts only seems plausible. Besides, the purchase with such a provision may have very well been done under the supplier’s influence, as a former Anti-Corruption Commission chair has suggested. And this amounts to the squandering away of the money that is paid from the public exchequer and, hence, constitutes a financial corruption.
Appropriate authorities, under the circumstances, must immediately stop the visits at hand of the government official and teachers and officials of the university and institute an investigation to establish the people responsible for all this. It is also expected that the Anti-Corruption Commission should take up the issue and set out an investigation of the incident along with the other incident that has taken place about the detailed project proposal of the Chittagong Medical University that set abnormal prices for inexpensive articles and equipment. It is true that corruption could not take place in the medical university case but it appeared well intended and it, therefore, must be taken care of deterrently.
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