Jahangir ‘spent on’ events that never happened
Suspended Gazipur City Corporation Mayor Mohammad Jahangir Alam may have pocketed at least Tk 1.57 crore from the city corporation fund in the pretext of celebrating Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's birth centenary in 2020, according to an internal investigation by the city authorities.
The funds were withdrawn to pay for different programmes to mark the occasion, although no programmes were held due to Covid restrictions, the report said.
The report has been prepared for an LGRD ministry probe body, which is looking into allegations of corruption and irregularities against Jahangir.
Documents show two cheques – one amounting to Tk 46 lakh and another Tk 45 lakh – were encashed on March 4, 2020. This was said to be advance payments for different discussions and events, including cultural programmes, on Rajbari Ground on March 17, the birthday of Bangabandhu.
Another cheque of Tk 29.79 lakh was issued on April 14 the same year to Golden Construction Company for decoration for the Rajbari programmes.
None of these programmes or decoration work actually happened, the investigation found.
Gazipur city Ward Councilor Asadur Rahman Kiron, who has been serving as acting mayor since Jahangir's suspension, said no programme was held as there was Covid-19 restrictions.
Gazipur City Awami League President Azmot Ullah Khan, acting general secretary Md Ataullah Mondal, Cultural Affairs Secretary Asadulla and local lawmaker Shamsunnahar Bhuiyan also confirmed this to The Daily Star.
Similarly, a cheque of Tk 23.91 lakh was issued to a London-based art firm for creating a giant portrait of Bangabandhu for display on March 17. It was not on display.
Another Tk 12.45 lakh was withdrawn from the GCC account on February 24 last year for printing posters. Documents show the posters were printed from Bangladesh Machine Tools Factory (BMTF).
But BMTF informed the GCC that it did not do any such work.
Nurul Alam Azad, manager of Sonali Bank's Gazipur Court Building branch, said no cheque issued to BMTF was encashed from Gazipur City Corporation account in February last year.
The investigation also found some dates on bills and vouchers were inconsistent with the dates of events. Records show bill adjustment was approved on April 17, 2020. But some vouchers are dated April 12, five days before the approval.
This is inconsistent and suspicious, said the report.
The cheques of different banks were issued jointly by the then mayor Jahangir and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Aminul Islam.
All government programmes and their budgets must be approved by a committee, but in this case no committee was formed, meaning there was no approval for these spendings, the report said.
Two cheques amounting to Tk 91 lakh were issued in the name of former GCC secretary Mostafizur Rahman and ex-chief revenue officer Rezaul Bari. They were encashed by GCC temporary staffers, according to documents seen by The Daily Star.
As per rules, any expenditure exceeding Tk 5,000 must be paid through account payee cheques, said acting GCC mayor Asadur Rahman Kiron.
Rezaul, now posted as a settlement officer in Barishal, told this newspaper recently that he was not aware that the cheque was issued against his name until he received a phone call from GCC following Jahangir's suspension in November last year.
GCC staffer Solaiman, who encashed the cheque, declined to comment.
GCC sources alleged Solaiman handed over the money to Jahangir's close aide.
Jahangir refuted all the allegations. He insisted all programmes to mark Bangabandhu's birth centenary were organised. He blamed "a vested group" for trying to frame him.
He was suspended on November 25 last year on charges of corruption and irregularities. Six days earlier, he was expelled from the Awami League for his controversial comments on Bangabandhu and Liberation War martyrs.
Acting Mayor Kiron said that former CEO Aminul and acting chief accounts officer Golam Kibria could not shrug off their responsibilities.
Contacted, Aminul Islam said his duty was to issue cheques. The accounts people were responsible for ensuring financial transparency.
Asked why he signed the cheques without budget approval, he said, "I cannot recall right now. There might have been an emergency that prompted us to issue the cheques hurriedly."
Golam Kibria, the acting chief accounts officer, declined to comment.
Additional Secretary of the LGRD ministry Mustakim Billah Faruqui, who is leading the three-member committee investigating the irregularities and corruption against Jahangir, said they would soon submit the probe report. He declined to comment on their findings.
Separately, the Anti-Corruption Commission is investigating allegations of irregularities involving Tk 7,800 crore against Jahangir.