The government has decided to hire a private company to check motor vehicles' fitness with machines, which we think is a prudent move, given the fact that the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) has not been able to cope with the demands of checking thousands of vehicles for fitness. In the last fiscal year, only 109 motor vehicle inspectors, with the help of 86 mechanical assistants, checked the fitness of 7.5 lakh vehicles—an unrelenting task indeed. Now, Computer Network System (CNS) Limited will set up a 12-lane Vehicle Inspection Centre (VIC) at BRTA's Mirpur office to test more than 400 vehicles every day.
Thus far, inadequate manpower and technology has hampered the services of BRTA significantly. Given that BRTA has not been able to fill the gaps in its human resources and technology, outsourcing some of the work is possibly the next best thing. According to the current proposal, placed by the Road Transport and Highways Division and recently approved by the Cabinet Committee on Public Purchase, CNS—which is already providing several services to the BRTA—will establish, operate and maintain BRTA's Mirpur VIC for five years at a cost of Tk 105.23 crore.
While BRTA officials have assured that CNS was selected for the job following competitive bidding, we feel compelled to remind the authorities that a project with an investment of over Tk 100 crore must not be allowed to go to waste as a result of inefficiency, as so many of such well-meaning projects are wont to do. There must be complete transparency in the operations over the next five years, as well as properly established and implemented systems of accountability. The government must also remain vigilant so that the private firm abstains from creating a monopoly, overcharging or any other unethical practices.
We have repeatedly asked the government to extend the capacity of the BRTA over the years, mainly to ensure road safety and bring down the significant number of deaths in Bangladesh that result from unfit vehicles plying the roads. While making the process of checking the fitness of vehicles more efficient is a positive step forward, we also urge the authorities to comply with the High Court order to set up more fitness testing centres across the country by November 23. We must keep in mind that while the Mirpur VIC checks the highest volumes of vehicles, it is still only one centre out of a maximum of 70 across the country where all of the work is being done manually, leaving room for manipulation and irregularities that could continue to compromise safety.