Railway ministry owes citizens an explanation | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, February 19, 2021 / LAST MODIFIED: 02:04 AM, February 19, 2021


Railway ministry owes citizens an explanation

Officials involved in irregularities must be punished

We are appalled by the railway ministry's decision to ignore its own probe committee's recommendation to take punitive measures against 21 officials for purchase anomalies. Of the officials involved, all but one—who was suspended last year over a separate allegation—continue to serve in their positions without facing any departmental action since the probe report was submitted. Not only that, the ministry has gone on to promote one of them and started the promotion process for another.

The probe committee, formed by the ministry itself, found that the 21 officials were involved in irregularities in the procurement of Covid-19 protective materials at higher prices, even without completing any tender process. Because of these anomalies, the committee in its report recommended taking disciplinary action against those responsible and also excluding them from any kind of procurement process. Unfortunately, the ministry seems to have not received the memo. According to documents obtained by this newspaper, four officials named in the report still have the authority to purchase materials for Bangladesh Railway.

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The probe report found many forms of irregularities. For example, some materials mentioned in the demand letter were received from suppliers even before tenders were called. And the exact same materials were procured by three different BR offices at prices that were significantly different. In fact, the irregularities were so glaring that the report said the "allegations [of corruption] published in the newspapers are true and the matter of purchasing goods at higher prices is also proved."

If it can be "proved" that these officials were involved in corruption and that they had abused their positions to procure materials at higher prices, why then would the ministry not take any action against these officials, and instead reward some of them while continuing to provide them with the opportunity to repeat the offence? Doesn't this point towards corruption within the BR that is much larger in scale than what the probe report initially suggests? Why else would the ministry brush aside the report so blatantly? And what is the point of forming such probe committees if their findings and recommendations are going to be disregarded like this?

All this raises more questions than answers. But ultimately, what is obvious is that the BR is mired in mismanagement, inefficiency and corruption. We call on the government to intervene and for the ministry to reverse its decision of letting the corrupt officials get off the hook without so much as a slap on the wrist. The officials that were responsible for the acquisition of materials at higher prices and without following proper procedures must be punished according to the law. And lastly, the ministry must answer to the people why it hasn't taken any action so far.

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