We are used to hearing of reckless use of public money through various methods and means, pillows costing thousands of takas for example, but perhaps for the first time we are hearing of huge sums of money spent on a public project even before completing the very basics to get it going. As reported in this daily yesterday, officials of the Sustainable Forests and Livelihood Project, launched more than a year ago, have spent Tk 57 crore of the Tk 1,500 crore scheme when even some fundamental works such as preparing the training module, selecting instructors and the project areas have not been completed. But they have purchased and rented vehicles and gone on learning visits abroad.
We wonder whether a rented car can cost more than a large flat in a posh area in Dhaka. But that is exactly what is being paid—Tk 2.5 lakh per month for each of the five rented cars. The project officers had very unconvincing responses to the queries of the reporters regarding the lackadaisical progress of the project and the way money has been spent so far. This is not only sheer negligence towards the implementation of the project, it also exposes public servants’ scant regard for public money.
This case is fairly demonstrative of the way project money is used in most cases. And this betrays lack of accountability, oversight and, in some cases, acquiescence. No sooner is a project approved than there is a buying spree for vehicles even though most of these officials have vehicles provided by the government. Then there is a beeline for foreign trips for so-called learning experience. And if one goes deep into it, one may well discover that many of those who went abroad had nothing to do with the implementation of the project.
It’s about time this wastefulness stopped. The parliamentary oversight committee on Environment, Forest and Climate Change should be complimented for at least venting their spleen at the wasteful way the money has been spent. But we believe it can do more than simply express dismay.