Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader yesterday directed the BRTC chairman to investigate the purchase of “faulty” buses from India.
“There must have been experts among those involved in bringing buses [from India]. They [Indian companies] supplied us vehicles full of defects,” he said.
“I am directing the [BRTC] chairman to launch a proper investigation to find out whether anyone [of our officials] accepted the defects willingly or there were any tricks.”
Quader, also the general secretary of the ruling Awami League, made the comment while replying to reporters’ queries following a views-exchange meeting with BRTC officials at its office in the capital.
Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation (BRTC) Chairman Ehsan-E-Elahi, who took charge of the state-run corporation this month, was present.
Earlier this year, the government brought 600 buses and 500 trucks from Indian companies with loans from the Indian government. All of the vehicles have already arrived in Bangladesh.
The vehicles include 300 double-decker buses (Tk 90 lakh per unit), 100 non-AC buses (Tk 49 lakh per unit), 100 AC city buses (Tk 67 lakh per unit), 100 AC intercity bus (Tk 72 lakh per unit), 350 (16.2 tonne) trucks (Tk 20 lakh per unit) and 150 (10.2-tonne) trucks (Tk 21 lakh per unit).
The values included VAT, according to the BRTC.
Indian company Ashok Leyland supplied the double-deckers, AC city buses, AC intercity buses while Tata Motors supplied the non-AC buses and 10.2-tonne trucks. VE Commercial Vehicle supplied the 16.2-tonne trucks.
The 600 buses cost nearly Tk 475 crore.
Recently, several Bangladeshi media outlets ran reports saying some of the non-AC buses leaked water from roof during rain, while some double-deckers did not meet the specifications of the vehicles.
Asked about the issue, Quader yesterday said the defects in the specification had already been examined. He said those who supplied the vehicles had taken the responsibility and promised to fix them.
He also acknowledged that water leaked from the roofs of some vehicles.
He said there should be specific deadlines for fixing the defects maintaining the proper standards.
Yesterday, the minister also directed the BRTC authorities not to lease buses to anyone without taking the profits and losses into consideration.
“I think it won’t be profitable if BRTC leases buses without doing proper assessment,” he said while talking to the reporters.
Talking about alleged corruption, irregularities and mismanagement at the BRTC, Quader said the government spent thousands of crores of taka to buy vehicles and replaced the BRTC chairman on different occasions, but the situation did not improve.
He said BRTC buses get damaged within a short time due to a lack of maintenance.
“I want to tell the chairman that there are ‘ghosts’ within [the BRTC]. So these ghosts have to be hunted down,” he said, adding, “If necessary, you [the chairman] will run the body with insufficient manpower, but will not allow any corrupts here.”
Curbing graft and irregularities at the BRTC would be the main challenge for the new chairman, he said and hoped that the chairman would be able to do so.
BRTC Chairman Ehsan-E-Elahi said the corporation owns 1,830 buses, of which 1,182 are in service. Of the 648 buses which are out of service, 325 new buses will start operation after necessary procedures while 248 had to be discarded and 75 needed repairs.
Talking about the challenges, Ehsan said his main challenge was to pay the months-long arrears of the drivers and other staffers.
The chairman said he asked the depot managers to pay the staffers one month’s arrears with their monthly salaries every month. “If anyone [depot manager] fails to walk with me, I will simply close that person.”
He said the BRTC was playing a vital role in providing training to drivers and it had already sent a Development Project Proforma (DPP) to the planning ministry to create three lakh drivers within the next five years.
Six organisations, led by the BRTC, will be involved in the Tk 2,200 crore project, he said.
BRTC depot managers were also present at the meeting yesterday.