The immediate past chairman of Karnaphuli Fertilizer Company (Kafco) created a post called consultant (HR) with the monthly salary of Tk 4.5 lakh just before leaving and appointed a retired joint secretary to it.
Md Abdul Halim, also a former secretary of the industries ministry, served as the chairman from August 2018 to May this year.
He created the post without any approval in a board meeting or by circular and hired retired joint secretary Kaisarul Islam for the position in February under a one-year contract, according to Kafco officials.
Both the ex-chairman and Kaisarul are from Bakerganj upazila of Barisal, they said.
There is also an allegation against Halim of misusing CSR funds for his upazila.
The Bangladesh government has 43 percent ownership of Kafco, a multinational fertiliser factory, and the rest 57 percent is owned by several countries, including Japan, Denmark, and the Netherlands.
As the government has the highest share, the industries ministry secretary serves the Kafco as its company chairman.
Talking to The Daily Star on August 29, Abdul Halim said the post was created as per the decision of multiple board meetings. "A proposal came from the board meeting to appoint Kaisarul Islam since he is qualified. I have approved it as per the decision of the board meeting."
Asked about the logic behind Tk 4.5 lakh in salary per month, he said, "Kafco's salary structure is different than that in any other company. This is not a lot of money for the position of a consultant and for the profile of the person hired."
Asked whether it was approved by the board, KM Ali Azam, the company's current chairman, said he was collecting documents to say it for sure. But so far he came to know that there was no circular for the recruitment.
"I don't know if there was any irregularity here. As there are allegations over the requirement to the post, it is being investigated," he told this correspondent.
"The department concerned has already been directed to present what has been decided in the board meeting and in what process the appointment has been made. Details can be shared only after receiving these documents."
QUESTION OVER CSR FUND SPENDING
From July 2018 to May 2020, the company spent Tk 90.79 lakh from its corporate social responsibility (CSR) fund.
Of this, Tk 84 lakh was spent in Bakerganj, Boalia and Halta areas of Barisal. The funds were given for the development of private and government schools, mosques, madrasas, and graveyards in these areas.
Although there were no particular rules, the cost of travel to these areas was also spent from the CSR fund.
According to the CSR fund expenditure list, Abdul Halim as the Kafco chairman donated Tk 5 lakh to Shaheed Altaf Shukur Memorial Girl's School in Bakalia of Bakerganj through a ceremony early this year.
He joined the programme with three top officials of Kafco and spent Tk 1,56,254 for airfare and hotel rents from the CSR fund during the two-day trip.
At the end of 2018, Tk 15.65 lakh was spent from the CSR fund to buy lab equipment and build nameplates for Fazlul Haque Secondary School in Abdul Halim's upazila.
He donated Tk 1,12,166 for setting up an ICT lab at the same institution towards the end of 2019 and spent Tk 84,000 for airfare to fly from Dhaka to Barisal to attend the donation ceremony.
Besides, Tk 5 lakh was spent for Sher-e-Bangla Memorial Scholarship in Bakerganj, Tk 9 lakh in two phases for Halta Haji Bari graveyard, and Tk 12 lakh for Halta Secondary School -- all from the CSR fund, according to the company sources.
According to Kafco officials, Halim managed to spend most of the CSR fund in his upazila with help of the company's chief corporate officer Rabiul Haque Chowdhury and general manager (HR) Raziur Rahman.
This correspondent called the two officials several times but they did not answer.
Regarding the allegations, Abdul Halim said, "It is not possible for the chairman to do anything alone. The CSR fund was spent as per the decision of the board meeting. I just approved the proposal that came from there."
M Najer Hossain, vice-president of the Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB), told The Daily Star: "Even though the company runs its business in Anwara upazila of Chattogram, they have not spent any CSR money there. The former chairman misused his power to spend Kafco's CSR fund in his own area."
He said there is no scope to bear the cost of travel and hotel rents from the CSR fund. "This cannot be done by the former chairman alone. It is important to identify those who are involved with him."
Contacted, the current chairman said, "CSR fund can be spent in different areas and there are no limitations in the law. However, it is unfair that the most of the money has been spent in one area.
"There is no scope to spend transport cost from CSR fund. An inquiry committee will be set up soon to look into the allegations of irregularities in various appointments and use of CSR fund in the past."
He added, "Preliminary work of investigation has already started."