Fertiliser “disappearing”, fund embezzlement, and corrupt officials going unpunished plague the Bangladesh Chemical Industries Corporation (BCIC) but a class-I civil servant “vanishing into thin air” with fertiliser worth crores of taka was a new low for the corporation.
The rot in BCIC prompted the industries ministry to commission a probe but this incident was something the BCIC had not seen before.
Harun-ar-Rashid, a manager who was in charge of the BCIC warehouse in Patuakhali, ran away in November with over 2,800 tonnes of fertiliser unaccounted for, which is worth around Tk 10 crore.
Harun left with most of the relevant warehouse logs as well, according to sources.
Yet, BCIC probes appeared lacklustre, half-hearted and not thorough to say the least.
Before the BCIC had noticed that the fertiliser went missing, it had transferred Harun to Chittagong Urea Fertiliser Ltd (CUFL). He was supposed to join CUFL after handing over charge of the warehouse on December 1, 2016.
He never showed up at CUFL.
A fertiliser transporter wrote to the BCIC that it had not got material received receipt (MRR) for the 2,450 tonnes of fertiliser it had delivered to the Patuakhali warehouse.
Moshiur Rahman Titu, executive director of South Delta Shipping and Traders Ltd which carried the fertiliser to Patuakhali warehouse, claimed that Harun had received the fertiliser.
“When we informed the BCIC head office, one of its directors asked [through a letter] Harun to explain in three days as to why the MRR was not issued. Without responding, he [Harun] went into hiding,” he told The Daily Star.
This incident forced the BCIC to form two probe bodies, neither of which attempted to visit Harun's present or permanent addresses or do a thorough job.
According to documents obtained by The Daily Star, one of the bodies formed to probe the matter was led by Abdul Hamim, manager commercial of CUFL.
The body visited Patuakhali recently and found that the fertiliser was delivered to the warehouse.
The probe body did not look into whether the fertiliser was actually in the warehouse.
The probe body asked Harun to appear before it within January 31 this year and explain, knowing very well that he had disappeared.
The CUFL eventually filed a general diary with Karnaphuli Police Station on March 12 about Harun not joining CUFL.
A CUFL official said this particular probe body had been formed as Patuakhali buffer warehouse was under CUFL's jurisdiction and that its job was to find out if the fertiliser had been delivered.
The probe body was not concerned with how over 2,000 tonnes of fertiliser disappeared and who else was involved, given that it was very unlikely that one person alone was behind it.
The BCIC formed another probe body led by general manager of marketing department Monjure Reza on January 19 to find out where 367.7 tonnes of fertiliser, worth around Tk 1.3 crore, was.
This fertiliser was missing according to the documents Harun had left behind.
Even though months have passed, this probe is yet to get going. It was supposed to submit a report within 15 days, according to documents obtained by this newspaper.
Probe body chief Monjure declined to comment regarding the matter but said the committee could not start its investigation as they were busy with the peak season of fertiliser distribution.
Sources claimed that Harun is from Barisal and has contacts with a few top officials of the BCIC.
The Daily Star had repeatedly tried to reach Harun over mobile phone, which was found switched off most of the times and nobody picked up when it rang.
A BCIC official on condition of anonymity said BCIC high officials in Dhaka in collusion with officials at the warehouses had been misappropriating fertiliser and selling those off in the market for years. The culture of impunity had led to such a situation in which hundreds of tonnes of the agricultural input go unaccounted for.