Senior secretary retires day after returning from official Europe tour
A senior secretary embarked on a study tour in Europe just before retiring from his job.
Helal Uddin Ahmed, a senior secretary of the Local Government Division (LGD), came back from his all-expenses-paid trip to the Netherlands and Spain on Saturday. The next day was his last day at work before his LPR (leave preparatory to retirement) began.
The study tour at the end of his career as a bureaucrat begs the question: How will the training be of any use to the government?
The expenses of his 10-day trip were borne from funds of two government projects.
Experts termed the retiring bureaucrat's study tour a waste of money.
Contacted, Former Cabinet Secretary Ali Imam Majumder said, "It was unethical. He cannot do that."
He added that learned individuals become senior secretaries. "He does not need a study tour. It is needed for the new officers so that they can make a contribution to the nation."
Helal, however, said, "I'm not too old. Since I have retired, my experience can be of use in any sector. There is WASA, LGED and other organisations. They can take our expertise by involving us in different projects."
Helal joined Bangladesh Civil Service in February 1988 and was the Election Commission secretary during the 11th Parliamentary Election in 2018.
Six others who went on this trip include Minister Tazul Islam of the Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperatives ministry.
According to the ministry documents, the individuals participated in the International Study Tour on Delta Plan 2100 in the Netherlands and Global Water Summit in Spain between May 11 and May 20.
The Global Water Summit took place from May 17-18. The Netherlands tour was a part of the preparation for the Bangladesh Delta Plan 2100 Conference which will be held in Dhaka from May 26-27.
But Helal is not even participating in the delta plan conference.
The funds of Dhaka's Food System (DFS) Project, Emergency Multi-Sector Rohingya Crisis Response Project (EMCRP) and City Governance Project were used for this trip, says a ministry document.
The Netherlands granted $12.5 million to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations for the DFS Project to develop a safe, sustainable and resilient food system for the Dhaka metropolitan areas. The EMCRP project, with $165 million granted by the World Bank, is aimed at providing basic services and social resilience for the Rohingyas in Cox's Bazar. And the JICA-funded Tk 2,904 crore City Governance Project is aimed at developing urban infrastructure.
Helal said the group went to a university in the Netherlands famous for its research on food systems. "We went to gather experience on water-logging since we have to implement the Delta Plan."
Regarding the Water Summit in Spain, he said due to the rising salinity in the southern districts, "we'll have to buy water in the future. We participated in the summit to learn how water can be marketed".
Transparency International Bangladesh Executive Director Dr Iftekharuzzaman said one could ask whether Helal's trip was a parting gift before retirement.
The three projects that covered the expenses of the high-level delegation have hardly anything to do with the stated purpose and apparent scope of the tour, he added. "This raises additional questions on transparency and accountability in the use of project funds intended to serve the public interest," he said.