Dhaka Wasa keeps extending deadlines and increasing the costs of its projects to create room for corruption, according to an Anti-Corruption Commission report.
The ACC identified eight projects and three areas in Wasa where corruption takes place and made a 12-point recommendation for preventing graft.
In many cases, Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority (Wasa) also did not carry out its work as per project designs and specifications, wasting money and resources, read the report.
A three-member ACC team led by a director came up with the findings following a probe into Wasa. It talked to experts, former and incumbent Wasa officials to prepare the report. The report was given to the LGRD ministry yesterday, and this paper has obtained a copy of it.
A project was taken up on November 22, 2012 to reduce dependency on groundwater in greater Mirpur area, the ACC said.
Under the Tk 521 crore project, 46 wells, two iron removal plants, and 48.78km of supply lines were to be installed by June 2017. A reservoir was to be built and 7.81 hectares were supposed to be acquired.
But on March 29, 2016, the project cost was increased to Tk 573 crore and deadline extended by a year.
“... the cost of the project was increased by Tk 52 crore unnecessarily,” the report read.
Until December 2016, the project made 46.72 percent progress but Wasa paid its contractor 54.75 percent (Tk 313.71 crore) of the cost mentioned in the revised detailed project proposal, it said.
For supplying an additional 40 crore liters a day to Dhaka and Narayanganj, Wasa took up a three-year project in March 2015. The estimate cost was Tk 252 crore.
Wasa was to set up or reinstall 162 deep tube wells, restore 30 more, and build 70km supply lines.
By December 2016, Wasa had installed 162 deep tube wells but then it revised the DPP and included setting up another 375 deep tube wells, restoration of another 120, and building 100km pipe lines.
The project cost jumped to Tk 612 crore, more than double the initial cost.
By June 2018, Wasa had spent Tk 50 crore of the cost in the revised DPP. “Though some deep tube well and water line has been set up, most of the work is found incomplete. There are incongruities between progress and payments to the construction firm,” said ACC.
The report did not specify the work done or the payments made.
“It was learnt that Wasa, its project implementation authority, engineers, and project director were behind this,” the report read.
The ACC said Wasa adopted Sayedabad Water Treatment (Phase-3) project worth Tk 4,597 crore in July 2015. Even though the deadline is only a year away “there is no significant progress in the project”, it said.
Wasa’s Padma Jashaldia Water Treatment Plant (phase-1) project was supposed to cost Tk 3,508.75 crore and ensure better supply to Old Dhaka’s Mitford, Nawabpur, Lalbagh, Hazaribagh, and Dhanmondi, Mohammadpur and its adjacent areas by 2018 end. The project taken up in 2013 is yet to finish.
The Tk 5,248 crore Dhaka Environmentally Sustainable Water Supply project was launched in October 2013. The project was supposed to end this December 2019 but Wasa spent Tk 238 crore and only 8 percent progress had been made.
A Tk 3,317 crore project undertaken in 2015 to treat sewage had a deadline of this December. “The work progress is miniscule,” read the report.
To address waterlogging problem in Agargaon area, Wasa took up a project to improve the drainage system at a cost Tk 24 crore in 2015. The project tenure was to end in June 2017 but no significant progress was made.
The Development of Dhaka’s Water Supply Network project launched in 2016 for an estimated Tk 3,182 crore has a December 2021 deadline. It has made no progress, the report said.
“There are allegations that even though there is no progress in work, the construction firm has been paid,” it said.
The ACC said corruption and irregularities also took place in the selection of consultants, and contractors, and during revenue collection and overtime bill disbursements.
It said manual meter reading was an area where syndicates have been formed to misappropriate money and deny the government of its revenue.
The anti-graft watchdog recommended forming joint measuring and monitoring teams to check corruption; forming powerful committees to oversee tender activities; paying special attention while adopting projects and allocating budget; introducing digital system for revenue collection; and formulating specific rules to prevent illegal overtime bills.
It asked Wasa high-ups not to give in to political influence and visit project sites frequently.
The Daily Star made several calls and sent text to Wasa Managing Director Taqsem A Khan for comments. He did not respond.
After handing over the report to Local Government and Rural Development Minister Tajul Islam yesterday, ACC’s Commissioner Mozammel Haque Khan told journalists, “The report will sensitise such organisations to prevent corruption.”
Minister Tajul, “Action will be taken, if any official is found negligent.”
Meanwhile, TIB’s Executive Director Iftekharuzzaman said the ACC findings were in many ways a mirror reflection of TIB’s recent report on Wasa.
“We hope that the two reports will motivate the ministry and other relevant authorities to take specific actions to drastically reform this vital institution,” he said, adding that Wasa for too long had been enjoying absolute and unaccountable concentration of power.
Iftekharuzzaman said the ACC has to go a step beyond such reporting and use the findings to hold to account those responsible for the institutionalisation of corruption in Wasa.