Pillow scandals highlight how big money and corruption flying around big projects

Faruque Ahmed
The public works ministry has suspended an executive engineer following the exposure of massive irregularities in purchase of furniture and other artifacts for Ruppur Nuclear plant’s housing project. The ministry has also said two committees were formed to investigate into the matter but the Attorney General Mahbube Alam has opposed at the same a judicial inquiry following a writ by a senior lawyer of Bangladesh Supreme Court.
The Court has asked for the inquiry committee reports by June 23. But many have voiced skepticism on the independence of the committees headed by a joint secretary in one case and an additional chief engineer of the Public Works department on the other.
Meanwhile the project management has denied most of the accusations reported in the media over the past week and one may fairly doubt from such denial that both the committee reports may finally exonerate the wrong doings as not the real facts in the ground. Yet many hope to know the truth and see the government actions how it is going to wide out corruptions of such huge magnitude.
The mountain high irregularities in purchase of furniture for six high rise apartment buildings for officers and employees of Ruppur Nuclear plant baffled the nation in total surprise. It is unbelievable how contractors could supply a pillow to the housing project at a cost of Tk 5,957 and charge another Tk 760 for lifting the pillow at upper floors. The pillow scandal is running in the air.
Some reports said a total of Tk 25 crore has been wasted in such purchase that may virtually cost only several crore at the highest. Project management claims contract were awarded through e-tendering and obviously the lowest bidders were offered the procurement contracts.
But the ocean like irregularities have simply put in question the e-bidding process like the controversy over use of EVM in elections. The fact is that all such methods can be compromised if the persons behind the machine have ulterior motives.
No system is perfect if the perfect motives does not work. The Ruppur Nuclear Power project is a dream project of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and is being implemented at a cost of Tk 113,000 crore. But many wonder if a small sideline project can breed mountain like irregularities and unbridled corruption, what is really happening with the core project.
Transparency International- Bangladesh Chief Dr Iftekharuzzaman has rightly raised the issue like many other rights organizations demanding access to project information and also investigation into what is really transpiring with all such procurements for the housing project and in the bigger power project.
Some other cost estimates of furniture show cost of an electric stove has been reported at Tk 7,747 and its lifting cost at upper floors reported Tk 6,650 per piece. Price of an electric iron reported at Tk 4,154 and the lifting cost at Tk 2,945.
Media reports also said that salary of the project director was Tk 4.96 lakh. And besides this, as chief executive officer (CEO) of the project he receives an additional Tk two lakh in his salary package. Salary of drivers reported at Tk 73,000 each and that of cooks at Tk 63,000.
Estimates suggest buying a bed had cost of Tk 5,986 and lifting cost reported at Tk 931 each. In all 330 bedsheets and pillows were collected each. Wooden beds numbering 110 were bought at a cost of Tk 43,557 and lifting charge reported at Tk 10,773 each. Cost of a cleaning machine reported at Tk 12,018 and lifting charge at Tk 6,650 each.
TV set was bought at Tk 86,960 each and lifting charge at Tk 7638. In all 110 TV sets were purchased. Cost of a wardrobe has been reported at Tk 59,858 and lifting charge at Tk 17,499 each. Cost of a freeze reported at Tk 94,250 and lifting charge at Tk 12521 each.
Cost of a microwave at Tk 38,2274 and lifting cost Tk 17499 each. Sofa was bought at a cost of Tk 74,509 each set and lifting cost reported at Tk 24,244. Centre table cost Tk 14,561 each and lifting charge reported at Tk 2,499. Dining table with six chairs cost Tk 114,674 each set and lifting charge reported at Tk 21,375.
Many believe if the Ruppur Nuclear Power project cost is so huge at Tk 1.13 trillion, its spending may also go berserk as there is no funding shortage. There are many influential persons from the ruling party and bureaucracy taking hefty benefits from the project they are supervising.
Not only local contractors; suppliers of heavy machine and equipment and technical services from outside may be also be taking out hefty benefits by way of underhand dealing or wrong reporting as many fear in a situation where there is no transparency and accountability at all.
The government and the relevant ministry said they have set up investigation committees to ascertain the matter but the Anti-Corruption Commission chief Iqbal Mahmud said they can’t jump before initial probe reports of the government is coming to the hand.
Meanwhile many fear removing an executive engineer of the housing project may apparently aims at cooling public reaction over the monumental buying scandals. This is the way of defusing media outcry work in many cases.
In Nusrat killing cover, like many other cases up, four police officers have been similarly withdrawn from Sonagazi recently and put on new posting for defusing public outcry for their involvement in the cover up of the killing case.
What was painstaking that the Madrasha Principal was the prime accused in the sexual harassment case and Sonagazi upazila Awami League president was involved in the cover up with the local OC, police super and another senior sub-inspector.
More painstaking is that a senior student memorizing the Koran in the madrasha and some of Nusrat’s friends helped the killing to show how religious organizations and the total social fabrics have gone berserk, rotten and criminalized under their civilized face. Perhaps many believe now crime and corruption is not a social problem that make life easier and prosperous.
This scandalous purchase is yet another such criminal exposure and perhaps this is just the tips on the iceberg of mountainous crimes and corruption on which we as a nation are sitting on. This is what we may claim big development from big money. 23.05.2019.

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