Sunday, June 23, 2024

Govt’s money gobbled up

Bangabandhu Bridge
Govt’s money gobbled up 
Probe finds 2 firms pocket Tk 1.16cr
Two local firms working at the Bangabandhu Bridge have gobbled up Tk 1.16 crore between November 2010 and March this year, according to an official investigation.
Shamim Enterprise Ltd and UDC’s job is to operate and maintain the bridge.
The companies embezzled Tk 89.94 lakh and Tk 26.06 lakh realised from overloaded trucks and towing charges of broken down vehicles. The money was supposed to go to the Bangladesh Bridge Authority (BBA) as per the companies’ contracts with the government. The communications ministry formed a probe body in April this year to look into “irregularities of the companies in depositing the money” that might have been going on since November 2010. Bridges Division Secretary Khandaker Anwarul Islam said, “An investigation was done, but I have no knowledge about it yet.” The probe carried out by the BBA in May reveals Shamim Enterprise and UDC realised Tk 26.06 lakh as towing charges from vehicles that had broken down in the bridge area between November 2010 and March 2013.
The companies as per the contract use BBA tow trucks and charge the vehicles towing fees. But, they neither deposited the collected money nor recorded the information with the police.
The probe also found that the companies realised Tk 1.32 crore as toll from overloaded trucks between July 2011 and March 2013 using the two yards, where overloaded trucks are sent and charged Tk 50 for using the yard.
After paying salary of the yard employees, the rest of the money was supposed go to the BBA. According to the probe report, the companies paid Tk 37.56 lakh in salary, deposited Tk 8.93 lakh to the BBA account and kept Tk 85.49 lakh.
The probe report, a copy of which has been obtained by The Daily Star, detects the companies have hidden data of 8,906 overloaded trucks that used the yards, on both ends of the bridge, and had paid over Tk 4.45 lakh in toll. The probe, however, contradicts the Bridges Division’s claim that there was no corruption or irregularities regarding the Bangabandhu Bridge.
The probe body headed by Deputy Director (admin) Moniruzzaman of the Bridges Division has also found long queues of trucks due to an improper system in place that creates scope for truckers to use manual weighing machines and the readings of those machines were questionable. “A tendency of using manual machines is very clear. Evidence is there that the employees of the operator companies and yards are involved in allowing overloaded trucks to cross the bridge without being fined,” says the report. As per the deal, the contract of the companies could be terminated and both the local and Chinese firms could be blacklisted for indulging in corruption and violation of contract. Asked whether action would be taken against the companies, Chief Engineer Kabir Ahmed of the Bridges Division said another investigation was going on to determine the actual transactions. However, sources in the second probe body claimed that the BBA was trying to bury the findings and come up with excuses as to where the money had gone. A BBA enquiry had earlier discovered embezzlement of Tk 11.93 lakh toll money. Officials through random scrutiny of toll records of January and February in 2012 and December in 2011 found the money missing. The money was stolen by hiding real data on computers and by duplicating money receipts.
Corruption cases were filed against 12 toll collectors, but no action was taken against the companies.
Shamim Enterprise and UDC did not have previous experience but got the bridge operation and maintenance job by virtue of their joint ventures with two Chinese firms — Scientific Institute of Communications (GSIC), and Meteorological Construction Company (MCC). However, no officials of the Chinese companies were seen working there.

-With The Daily Star input

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