Bills paid sans work | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, October 24, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 06:17 AM, October 24, 2020

Bills paid sans work

Financial irregularities traced in DGFP’s IEM unit since 2018, its director questioned by ACC

The payment disbursed but the work not done -- this appears to have become a common practice at the IEM unit of DGFP.

The Directorate General of Family Planning (DGFP) in 2018 decided to widely disseminate a voice message to mobile phone users as part of an awareness campaign, the budget of which was Tk 99 lakh.

The Information, Education and Motivation (IEM) unit was tasked with preparing a voice message of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and sending it to one crore people through a private company.

The unit selected Kabir Enterprise for the job and on April 6, 2018 issued a work order, a copy of which The Daily Star obtained.

Over two years have passed since then and the message is yet to be ready or sent to any mobile users, but the money has already been paid in full to Kabir Enterprise, according to its owner Kabir Ahmed.

"I am waiting for the voice message of the prime minister. The DGFP office was supposed to provide me the content but I am yet to receive it," Kabir told The Daily Star recently.

This is not, however, the first time something like this has happened at the department.

In the 2019-20 fiscal year, the IEM unit was tasked with organising 486 workshops across the country, with a total of Tk 7 crore allotted for this project.

But there have been widespread allegations internally that false and inflated bills were submitted and the funds withdrawn in full under the project. 

After these allegations surfaced, the health ministry formed an internal inquiry committee headed by Shabbir Hossain, additional secretary of the Medical Education and Family Welfare division.

"We have submitted the report around a month ago and we found anomalies. We found that some of the allegations are true," Sabbir Hossain told The Daily Star, without elaborating.

The Daily Star also obtained several documents relating to a workshop held under the project in Moulvibazar.

According to these documents, food for that workshop was purchased from Sampan Restaurant and Catering, located on Station Road, and stationery items were purchased from Achal Paper, Stationery and Library.

Responding to the probe committee query about the authenticity of the bills, however, DGFP's Moulvibazar unit on December 31, 2018 wrote that they did not find the existence of these shops at the stated addresses and that the purchase of food and stationery was therefore inapplicable.

"The payment was received submitting false and forged vouchers and documents," said a DGFP official, preferring not to be named.

In the Moulvibazar workshop bill, it was stated that the cost of a ball pen was Tk 80, a writing pad Tk 80, and that of a bag Tk 1,050.

But in its investigation, the price of a bag was found to be Tk 370, said the DGFP official.

The allegations of financial foul play were mainly against IEM Director Dr Ashrafunnesa.

On September 16, the Anti-Corruption Commission questioned Dr Ashrafunnesa over a complaint that Tk 7 crore was embezzled by issuing fake bills in the name of workshops, seminars, and trainings.

ACC Deputy Director Md Salahuddin questioned Ashrafunnesa for around four and half hours and she avoided answering most of the questions, sources in the anti-graft body said.

"We've got allegations. Now we're verifying these," Salahuddin told The Daily Star earlier this month.

Last month, ACC Secretary Dilwar Bakht told journalists that they have decided to investigate after scrutinising the allegations primarily.

This correspondent reached out to Dr Ashrafunnesa, who joined as the IEM director in 2018, but she refused to comment.

The Daily Star also approached DGFP Director General Sahan Ara Banu for comment, but she declined to talk about the matter.

 

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