Although the three hill district councils spend overTk 1.5 crore each year for sending their and the CHT affairs ministry’s staff members abroad for study tours, the application of knowledge from such trips remains vague.
According to Chief Executive Officer of Khagrachari Hill District Council Md Nuruzzaman, each council receives Tk 50-60 lakh per year from the ministry to send the members to different countries.
The funds are allocated under a project called “Strengthening Hill District Councils and Developing Skills of Their Officials”.
However, when The Daily Star approached at least 10 persons who went on these tours at different times this year, none of them could say what exactly they learnt from the trips.
Between January and September, a total of 83 officials and other members of the three hill district councils and the ministry visited Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, Vietnam, China, and Japan in seven phases.
The Daily Star obtained copies of official letters of the ministry approving the tours.
Those who went on the tours include councillors, chairmen, accounts officers, audit officers and other staff members of the councils and the ministry. Some of them were accompanied by their family members, according to the letters.
The letters also stated that expenditure for the officials and the other employees would be made from government funds, but their family members would have to bear their own expenses.
Contacted, Md Nazrul Islam, a personal officer to an additional secretary of CHT affairs ministry, who visited Vietnam and Cambodia this year, said, “Khagrachari Hill District Council gave me 1,000 US dollars as pocket money to go abroad for study tour.”
However, Nazrul was not asked to submit any payment voucher to the council.
Asked what he had learnt from the tour, he said he visited some cultural and historical places of the two countries. He, however, could not say how the visits were relevant to his job.
The Daily Star also contacted Mohammad Abdul Mazed, accounts and audit officer of Bandarban Hill District Council, who went to China and Malaysia this year. Refusing to say anything, the officer suggested that this correspondent talk to his senior officials about the matter.
Contacted, Executive Engineer of Bandarban Hill District Council Md Mahbubur Rahman said, “We need to learn something from a foreign country, but it is true we can’t use our experience properly in our country.”
Asked why they did not apply their knowledge and skills acquired from foreign trips, he declined to talk any further and asked this correspondent to talk to other senior officials in the council.
Chairman of Khagrachari Hill District Council Kongjari Chowdhury on September 30 told this correspondent over phone that these foreign trips bring benefits.
Asked about the benefits, he said he was busy and disconnected the line.
Terming these tours pleasure trips, former member of National Human Rights Commission Banchita Chakma said, “These are nothing but total misuse of government funds.”
Bodhisatta Dewan, former principal of Khagrachari Government College and president of Sacheton Nagorik Committee (SANAC) Khagrachari unit, also raised question about these study tours.
He said, “Nobody knows what type of knowledge they acquire from these foreign trips and how they apply it in Bangladesh. These tours are nothing but misuse of fund only for their pleasure.”
Asma Taskin, deputy secretary of CHT affairs ministry, said “The purpose of such tours is to gather knowledge and experience. If anyone going on these tours considers these as pleasure trips, it is his or her personal failure.”
Asked whether evaluation of the tour participants is done on their return, the deputy secretary said they do not have any such mechanism.
After returning, the staff members share power point presentation on their trips and learnings before senior officials, she said, without elaborating on the matter.