Standard Asiatic Oil corruption: Eight employees siphon out Tk 21.64cr
Eight officials of Standard Asiatic Oil (SAOCL), a subsidiary of the Bangladesh Petroleum Corporation, have embezzled Tk 21.64 crore by showing advance cost and fake bill vouchers, found investigations by the Directorate of Power and Energy Audit and BPC.
The officials were recruited by Moinuddin Ahmed, a controversial director of SAOCL, and Mohammad Shahed, the company's former general manager, without recruitment notice, application, written examination, police verification report or board's approval -- violating government recruitment policies.
While the Directorate of Power and Energy Audit found six more were recruited in this manner, Moni Lal Das, SAOCL's chief executive officer, said the number is more than 50.
"Moinuddin Ahmed and Mohammad Shahed misused their power to embezzle company money," said Sudipta Ahsan, deputy director of the Directorate of Power and Energy Audit and also a member of the audit committee.
The Directorate of Power and Energy Audit found 49 counts of irregularities at SAOCL. The findings were forwarded to the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG).
The CAG in its final report to the parliament said the government has been deprived of Tk 472.7 crore for 21 counts of irregularities by SAOCL.
Ahmed, who was previously the president of SAOCL's management advisory committee, was found to be involved in the irregularities, the CAG report said.
The missing Tk 21.64 crore has been attributed to Mahmudul Haque, the deputy manager for accounts of SAOCL then.
Haque was hired in 2009 without any recruitment test or police verification report, according to the CAG report. Between 2010 and 2016, he was promoted thrice by Ahmed, violating the company policy of giving promotions every four years.
Between 2019 and 2020, Haque withdrew Tk 9.87 crore in the name of seven officials and Tk 11.77 crore in the name of several organisations.
There was no signature of the concerned officials on the cheques and the audit committee found no existence of the organisations.
The Daily Star managed to get in touch with three of the officials, who said they had no part in the withdrawals. One of the officials declined to comment.
"I have been working in other branches of the company outside of Chattogram for the past 10 years -- I had no opportunity to withdraw these amounts in my name," said Abu Reza Moinul Haque, SAOCL's assistant manager for sales.
Some Tk 2.21 crore was withdrawn in his name.
"Moreover, the SAOCL authority said that these funds were spent on the purchase of goods but I have not purchased any goods for office needs. I am not aware how these amounts were withdrawn in my name," he said, while declining to comment on his illegal recruitment.
Fakhrul Islam Bhuiyan, an officer of SACOL's accounts department, echoed the same; Tk 32 lakh was taken out in his name.
"I have recently joined the head office which is located in Chattogram. I was working in Dhaka and other districts when these amounts were withdrawn -- I have no idea about the issue."
He, however, acknowledged that he got into SAOCL without a written examination as Ahmed being the president of the management advisory committee had recruited him.
"We were first recruited on a casual basis and later made permanent," Bhuiyan added.
About the Tk 11.77 crore cash withdrawals in the name of various organisations and individuals, SAOCL in its statement to the audit committee said the money was spent on the purchase of goods for the institutions and the debts of various institutions.
But the audit committee did not find the existence of the goods and the institutions.
On November 4 last year, the SAOCL's board of directors were informed about the embezzlement by the eight officials. But no action was taken.
"I don't remember anything about the matter," said BPC Chairman ABM Azad, who is also the chairman of the SAOCL board of directors.
Despite repeated requests, Ahmed and Haque, who was transferred from the head office to the Savar office on corruption allegations on December 15, could not be reached for comments. Shahed died of Covid-19 in December 2020.
No such irregularities will take place now as BPC has reconstituted the board and replaced Ahmed as the president of the management advisory committee with Mishu Minhaz, said Das, who is also the general manager of BPC's finance department.
Since 2020, regular audits are being conducted to bring transparency in corporate matters, he added.
SAOCL is a 50-50 joint venture between the BPC and the Asiatic Industries.
The company is involved in the blending and marketing of engine oil and lubricating oil for vehicles; the marketing of diesel oil; the marketing and distribution of bitumen, liquefied petroleum gas and furnace oil; and supplying jet fuel to aircraft at Cox's Bazar International Airport.