Sunday, April 14, 2024

‘Donation’ frenzy at govt offices

Padma Bridge Project
‘Donation’ frenzy at govt offices
Commotion brews as some ministries go hyper-active
Some overzealous top officials have taken initiatives to collect donations from staffs at different ministries for the stalled Padma bridge project even though the government has yet to issue any instructions to that effect.
The science and technology ministry high-ups appear to be a step ahead of others. They have already drawn up a chart fixing the donation amounts for various tiers.
Rafiqul Islam, secretary of the ministry, at a meeting last month instructed all officials and employees to donate the sums fixed for them.
The Padma bridge project was stalled after the World Bank on June 29 cancelled its $1.2 billion fund for the bridge, citing a “corruption conspiracy”.
In the wake of the loan cancellation, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina declared in parliament that the government would construct the bridge with its own resources.
Following her statement in the House, people from all walks of life, including expatriate Bangladeshis, expressed intent to contribute to the Padma bridge funds, prime minister’s aides said.
On Wednesday, Bangladesh Bank directed all banks to open two accounts — one for local and the other for foreign currency — for receiving donations for the bridge project. The central bank circular came in line with a decision taken at a cabinet meeting on July 16.
At that meeting, ministers said they would each give a month’s salary to the fund. In addition, each of the 38 ministries would make separate contributions.
Also on July 16, some cabinet members told the prime minister that government officials and employees wanted to give a month’s salary to the fund. In reply, Hasina said it would be a burden on the families of the public servants. If they still wanted to contribute, they could give a day’s salary every month for 30 months.
Meanwhile, over-enthusiasm about fund-raising has got the better of a section of officials at different government organisations.
The education ministry has decided that all the officials of its boards, institutes, directorates and departments, and teachers and employees of MPO-listed schools and colleges will donate one day’s salary.
Bangladesh Open University (BOU) and the University Grants Commission (UGC) have pledged to donate Tk 10 crore and Tk 65 lakh respectively for the project.
BOU Vice-chancellor Dr Aminur Rashid declared this at a press conference in the capital last month, which drew flak from the teachers, officials and employees of the university.
The VC asked all to arrange the money at any cost, but many opposed the plan, as there is no provision in the BOU act to collect such a huge amount of money as donation.
“We can’t give the money since no gazette notification was issued in this regard,” said a professor of the university.
Later a syndicate meeting held up the VC’s decision and decided to seek approval from the UGC on the donation.
Many senior ministry officials are coming up with different ideas including contribution of one festival bonus and a month’s salary.
Ministry sources said collection of the donations might begin anytime this month.
The ministers have declared to donate a month’s salary, while the secretaries have committed the sum of their one festival bonus.
Several ministries are still undecided about the donation amount. “We sat a couple of times last month, but could not decide whether the officials would pay one or five days’ basic salary,” said a joint secretary of the communications ministry.
An education ministry official said, “In the past we gave one day’s salary voluntarily to help flood victims, but this time many officials are trying to impose it on us …. Everyone in the ministry will have to pay, although many are not in a position to donate money.”
Talking to The Daily Star, many mid-level and junior officials expressed their disappointment with the way they were being approached for donations.
Some officials with vested interests are showing over-enthusiasm, complained an official of science and technology ministry. “We can’t pay any money without clear-cut instructions.”
Officials at Bangladesh Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (BCSIR), a department of the ministry, said the authorities have asked them to donate one to five days’ basic salary based on their seniority.
Instructions have been given to the directors of the BCSIR for collecting the fund. The Daily Star has obtained a copy of the instructions, but there is no official signature in it.
The sheet includes a table showing the names of officials and employees, one day’s basic salary of each, and the donation amount.
The class-two officials and class-three employees have been asked to donate a day’s basic salary. The guideline, however, made the contribution of the class-four employees optional.
Talking to this newspaper, several BCSIR officials expressed unwillingness to donate any money, as there is no official signature on the instructions sheet.
The directors, though, allegedly warned them of sending their names to the ICT secretary if they failed to donate to Padma fund.
Contacted, State Minister for Science and Technology Yeafesh Osman ruled out making the donation mandatory. “Only those willing to donate will contribute to this fund. There is no compulsion for this.”
Public Administration Secretary Abdus Sobhan Sikder said public servants may contribute voluntarily, but nothing has been finalised regarding the amount. “There is no question of fixing the amount. It’s up to the officials and employees.”
The heads of various ministries and departments have been told to discuss the matter with other officials to reach a decision, he added. “They will place the decisions before the public administration ministry. They can’t fix the amount at will.”
It has not been finalised yet, said Sobhan, whether the government employees will donate a day’s or a week’s salary.

Courtesy of The Daily Star

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