Plagued by corruption | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, April 18, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 03:07 AM, April 18, 2019

Plagued by corruption

ACC identifies 22 sources of graft in Titas, including illegal connections, meter tampering

The Anti-Corruption Commission has identified 22 sources of corruption plaguing the state-run Titas Gas for years.

Illegal connections, re-connection of illegal lines, meter tampering and bribery in providing legal connections are major sources of corruption there.

Showing artificial system loss, giving illegal connections to boilers and generators and changing category of customers are also among the 22 possible sources of graft in Titas Gas Transmission & Distribution Company Limited, the ACC has found.

The corruption watchdog gave 12 recommendations, including introducing pre-paid meter, conducting surprise drives and imposing higher fines on illegal connection-holders, as well as taking action against corrupt officials.

ACC Commissioner Mozammel Haque Khan yesterday submitted a report on the corruption and irregularities in Titas to Nasrul Hamid, state minister for power, energy and mineral resources.

In 2017, the ACC formed 25 teams to investigate graft in 25 public organisations, including Titas, which are perceived to have corrupt practices, Mozammel said.

Led by a deputy director, the team investigating Titas talked with former and current Titas employees and people who have knowledge of how the company operates.

The team also took into consideration media reports about alleged corruption in Titas, spoke with victims and reviewed its annual and audit reports, the ACC official said. The government has announced a zero-tolerance policy against corruption and the report is part of the commission’s steps to fight graft, he added.

State Minister Nasrul Hamid said they would take action in line with the report and implement the prime minister’s zero-tolerance policy against corruption in his ministry.

SOURCES OF CORRUPTION

Highest corruption takes place through illegal connections, the report said.

For example, in fiscal year 2015-2016, as many as 1,18,455 illegal connections were found in Jinjira, Fatullah, Sonargaon, Narsingdi and Gazipur. At the rate of Tk 650 per burner, their total bill stands at Tk 92.39 crore. But as those connections were not snapped, it appears that this sum was misappropriated, the report said.

Citing a report of Implementation Monitoring and Evaluation Division of the planning ministry, it said around six percent system loss at Titas happens due to illegal connections.

Investigators gathered information about illegal connection in suburbs of the capital like Savar and Ashulia as well as in neighbouring districts, including Gazipur, Narsingdi and Narayanganj. The rate of illegal connections is higher in industries than in households.

Some unscrupulous Titas employees in collaboration with some technically sound people gave these illegal connections, especially at night, in exchange for bribe, the report said.

Often, people face difficulties in getting legal connections or legalising their unlawful connections because of a syndicate that does not benefit from legal connections.

Citing the 2013-2014 audit report of the company, the probe report said people had to give Tk 45,000 in bribe to get an illegal connection at the time. The bribe amount is now higher. This is why they are not interested in legalising the unauthorised connections. 

The ACC found reconnections of illegal connections as another source of corruption.

It said on many occasions, mobile courts disconnect illegal connections but those lines are reconnected at night in exchange for bribe.

The Titas authorities rarely take actions to snap illegal connections although they reconnect illegal lines when ordered by courts following cases by the illegal consumers.

In many cases, people get illegal connections due to “invisible interference” although there are committees in upazila and district levels to disconnect such lines.

There are no specific guidelines to provide connection, which promotes corruption.

The report said in many cases business establishments like hotels, restaurants, bakeries and super shops are given industrial connections in exchange for money. Industrial gas connection is cheaper, as part of a government policy to promote growth.

The report said many industrial units around Dhaka take connections for additional boilers and generators in exchange for bribe and in collaboration of with some Titas employees.

In many cases, Titas employees reduce pressure of gas for households to supply it to industries. Titas and other companies, in many cases, do not use Electronic Volume Corrector, which records gas pressure, allowing the malpractice.   

The team found some officials and staffers of Titas are posted in industrial belts for long, allowing them to create syndicates and then indulge in corruption.

Another source of corruption is long delay in bill collections.

For example, between fiscal years 2010-11 and 2015-16, different business groups had unpaid gas bills of over Tk 100 crore. Still, these companies are getting gas supply, the report said.

Investigators have also found that the existing irregularities in procurement and bidding process create scopes for corruption.

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