Allegations of plundering of public money surfaced in the re-excavation work of Ratnai canal in Aditmari upazila.
Locals said the contractor firm damaged the bed of the canal by using mostly dredgers to extract sand for sale.
Local Government Engineering Department (LGED) spent over Tk 1.81 crore to re-excavate the three-kilometre canal, in Bhelabari union of the upazila, under a project titled 'improvement of ponds, canals across the country' in fiscal year 2019-20.
LGED's authorised contractor, Mohammed Yunus & Brothers (Pvt) Ltd, based in Chattogram, collected full payment for the work that was scheduled to be completed in June this year. But the firm left the canal's bed damaged by extracting sand with dredgers and they did not properly finish work on its banks either, alleged locals.
The contractor did not finish at least 15 percent of the work and its water flow is now obstructed due to the damage caused by dredgers. As a result, farmers in the area are unable to take advantage of the government initiative, undertaken to improve the irrigation facilities for farmers.
Moreover, the contractor used the canal's banks to pile up and sell a huge amount of sand, extracted during the excavation work, the locals also alleged.
Farmer Mozammel Hossain from the area alleged that in the name of digging Ratnai canal, the contractor used dredgers to extract sand from the canal and sold the sand at the site for their personal gains.
Besides that, it has now become difficult for locals to move about on or beside the unfinished banks of the canal, he added.
Nazir Hossain, another farmer from the area, said corrupt LGED officials with the connivance of the contractor firm plundered public funds in the name of excavating the canal. "Ratnai canal is of no use to us now as it wasn't excavated properly. It's just the same as before."
Asked about the allegations, the contractor firm's representative Iqbal Hossain Daud, however, claimed that although they completed all the work of the Ratnai canal excavation project, LGED paid them 65 percent of the bill.
He also claimed that the sand extracted from the canal was not sold. Rather, it was sent out for various developmental works of the government.
Asked why the canal has no water flow despite a 'complete excavation' work done as per his claim, he said water flow is being obstructed as the canal has been silted up during this monsoon, after they already finished their work.
Contacted, Ashraf Ali Khan, executive engineer of LGED in Lalmonirhat, admitted that 85 percent of the Ratnai canal excavation work has been completed and they directed the contractor to complete the remaining 15 percent work at the soonest.
Claiming "there were no irregularities or misappropriation of government funds in the excavation of Ratnai canal", he said the contractor has been barred from using dredgers to extract sand from the canal.