The High Court yesterday sought enquiry reports from the housing and public works ministry on alleged irregularities in purchasing furniture and other household items for officials and other employees of Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant.
The HC asked the Attorney General’s Office to collect the reports from the committees formed by the ministry and submit those to the court within a week of its reopening after the upcoming vacation.
Both the Appellate and the HC divisions of the Supreme Court will go on a three-week annual vacation on May 24 and reopen on June 16. It means the reports would have to be submitted by June 23.
The HC bench of Justice Tariq ul Hakim and Justice Md Shohrowardi passed the order following a writ petition filed for its directive on the government to form a judicial committee to look into the allegations.
During yesterday’s hearing, barrister Sayedul Haque Suman, the writ petitioner, told the HC that the irregularities in purchasing the furniture and other household products should be enquired by an independent judicial committee, as the committees formed by the housing ministry might be biased.
The officials against whom the allegations have been raised are part of the housing ministry, he argued, adding that the officials have failed to uphold the good faith in them through the purchase of the items.
“The prime minister has announced a zero tolerance against all types of graft. Therefore, we cannot remain silent about the allegations of corruption in a big project like the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant,” he said.
Attorney General Mahbubey Alam opposed the petition saying that the housing ministry has already formed two separate committees to carry out enquiries into the reported irregularities.
At this stage, it would not be right if the HC interferes in the matter, he argued, adding that he would not defend anybody involved in graft.
SC lawyer Suman filed the writ petition with the HC on May 19, citing allegations that a huge amount of money has reportedly been spent for purchasing furniture, pillows, and other items for the officials and employees of Rooppur plant. The salaries fixed for them are also unusual, he said in the petition.
According to reports in the media as well as on social media, the purchase prices of various items to furnish the project’s 966 apartments for the Russian engineers and others were abnormally higher than the market prices.
The reports claimed that each pillow was bought for Tk 5,957, and the cost of carrying it to an apartment was Tk 760. An electric stove cost Tk 7,747 and the carrying cost from the ground floor to the top one cost Tk 6,650.
The reports also said that the price of an electric iron was Tk 4,154 and the carrying cost Tk 2,945.
Media reports also said that salary of the project director was Tk 4.96 lakh. Besides, he will be the executive director of the project, so he can receive an additional Tk two lakh. In addition, the salary of each driver was around 73,000, cooks would get Tk 63,000.
The total cost for the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant stands at around Tk 1,13,025 crore.
Meanwhile, the Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission in a statement yesterday rejected the allegation that project officials would be paid unusual amounts in salaries.
“Some news/ opinion/ comments related to staff salary of Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant and Nuclear Power Plant Company Bangladesh Limited are based on speculations, and imaginary information has been published in some newspapers/ online media/ social media [platforms] recently,” said the statement.
It said neither the project director nor the deputy project director of the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant Construction Project receives any salary or allowance from the project.
They are the regular staff of the Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission and draw salaries and allowances from the commission as per the fixed pay scale.
“So far, no driver and cook has been appointed in the company. So, the question about their salary and allowances is illogical,” it added.