Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has ordered forming a fresh committee to further investigate the disappearance of some 1.45 lakh tonnes of coal from Barapukuria coalmine and identify those responsible for it.
An initial probe by the Petrobangla, the coalmine's parent company, has already found negligence of some key officials. Last week, it removed four top officials from their posts.
The 525MW Barapukuria coal-fired power plant was shut down on Sunday due to coal crisis, in a direct fallout of the coal going missing from its yard. The current market price of the coal is around Tk 230 crore.
In the wake of the crisis, the Petrobangla had formed a committee, which submitted its report yesterday afternoon.
Later in the evening, the PM sat with Nasrul Hamid, state minister for power, energy and mineral resources, and some top officials of Petrobangla, to discuss the findings.
At the meeting, Hasina asked them to form a fresh committee, including officials of the Prime Minister's Office and the energy ministry, Nasrul told The Daily Star later.
“Some names have already surfaced but we will dig deeper. There may be a case of corruption here, but right now we cannot say this for sure. However, it has been confirmed that there has been negligence of duties," he said.
"The problem began in 2005. It seems all officials were involved in the process," he added.
Meanwhile, the coalmine's Manager (administration) Anisur Rahman filed a case with Parbatipur Model Police Station against 19 officials on Tuesday night.
According to the case statement, a small volume of coal was explored from the mine during the roadway development of the coalmine before 2005. Some of it was sold, while the rest was stockpiled.
Since September 10, 2005, the Barapukuria Coal Mine Company began commercial exploration and maintained the stock record by adding the previous stock with the freshly extracted coal.
The development of the mine began in 2001. Between 2001 and July 19 this year, some 1,01,66,042.33 tonnes were explored. Of that, about 66,87,029 tonnes were supplied to the power plant while 33,19,280.37 tonnes were sold to various private companies. Another 12,088.27 tonnes were used at the mine's boiler (for internal use such as for air conditioners, heating system etc).
On July 19 this year, there should have been a stock of 1,47,644 tonnes, but there were only 3,000 tonnes, said the case statement.
This means, there was a deficit of 1,44,644 tonnes worth about Tk 230 crore, it added.
It appears that some of the accused in the case may have long been involved in the theft of the coal in connivance with the previous managements, the case statement reads.
A copy of the case was sent to the Anti-Corruption Commission yesterday.
The ACC has already opened a separate inquiry. A three-member ACC team visited the mine on Monday.
The 19 accused are: Abu Taher Md Nuruzzaman Chowdhury, general manager (suspended), Khaledul Islam, deputy general manager (suspended), Habib Uddin Ahmed, former managing director, (withdrawn and now made OSD) Abul Kashem Prodhania, former general manager (administration) and company's secretary (stand released), Mosharaf Hossain, former general manager (exploration), Masudur Rahman Hawladar, manager (general services), Ashok Kumar Haldar, manager (production management), Arifur Rahman manager (maintenance and operation), Zahidul Islam, manager (design, construction and maintenance), Ekramul Haque, deputy manager (safety management), Muhammad Khalilur Rahman, deputy manager (coal handling and management), Morsheduzzaman, deputy manager (maintenance and operation), Habibur Rahman, deputy manager (production management), Zahidur Rahman, deputy manager (mine development), Sattyendra Nath Barman, assistant manager (ventilation management), Syed Imam Hasan, manager (security), Jobaer Ali, deputy general manager (mine planning operation), Abdul Mannan Patwari, former general manager (finance) and Gopal Chandra Saha, acting general manager (finance).
NEUTRAL PROBE DEMANDED
The Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) and Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (Bela) demanded formation of a neutral and acceptable committee to investigate the “scam” and called for punishment of the culprits.
They also called on the government to publish the total amount of the coal extracted, its distribution and total price.
The Petrobangla, the mine authorities and the power and energy ministry cannot avoid their responsibility for the coal going missing, said the statement, signed by Syeda Rizwana Hasan on behalf of both the TIB and the Bela.
The TIB and the Bela also urged the ACC to show highest professionalism and carry out the investigation objectively and without giving in to any pressure in the national interest.
[Our Dinajpur correspondent contributed to this report].