RHD Bridges, Roads: Govt officials exploit 172yr-old law, avoid tolls
Taking the benefit of a 172-year-old law, thousands of vehicles carrying government officials are not paying tolls on roads and bridges under the Roads and Highways Department (RHD), costing the state a huge amount of revenue.
The government lost revenue of about Tk 27.37 lakh last month as more than 24,000 vehicles carrying government officials did not pay tolls for the Dhaka-Bhanga Expressway and the Meghna and Ghumti bridges on the Dhaka-Chattogram highway, a document shows.
However, all but the president pay tolls for using Padma, Bangabandhu and Mukterpur bridges under the Bangladesh Bridge Authority (BBA), an agency under the road transport and bridges ministry.
Even the Toll Policy-2014 of the Road Transport and Highways Division does not allow toll-free movement of all government officials.
Against this backdrop, the Road Transport and Highways Division has decided to write to the Cabinet Division and the Prime Minister's Office seeking directives for all government offices and agencies so that vehicles carrying government officials pay tolls, sources said.
The decision was made after the issue of non-payment of tolls was raised at the monthly coordination meeting of the Road Transport and Highways Division on June 12.
An official told the meeting that 12,866 vehicles carrying government officials took toll-free facility at Jatir Pita Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Highway (Dhaka-Mawa-Bhanga Expressway) last month while 11,309 used the benefit on Meghna and Ghumti bridges
The authorities lost revenue of Tk 27.37 lakh, reads the meeting minutes.
The RHD collects tolls on four roads and more than 50 bridges across the country.
An RHD official said the Tolls Act-1851 exempted "public servants travelling on duty" from paying tolls.
Exploiting the law, vehicles carrying government officials refuse to pay tolls, be they on duty or not, the official said wishing anonymity.
However, the Toll Policy-2014 stipulates that on-duty government officials will be exempted from paying tolls inside the area under their jurisdiction and their vehicles have to have government stickers.
In January this year, Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader told reporters that only the president would be exempted from tolls on the Padma, Bangabandhu, and Mukterpur bridges.
Following its board decision, the BBA in March withdrew all toll-exemption facilities on the three bridges.
"As we don't have clear directives, we can't prevent the government officials from travelling without paying tolls. So, we have sought a directive in this regard," the RHD official said.
The June 12 meeting, with Road Transport and Highways Division Secretary ABM Amin Ullah Nuri in the chair, decided to hang banners at every toll booths displaying the message that no vehicles will get toll-free facility except those declared toll-free by the government.
The meeting also decided to send letters to the Cabinet Division and the PMO mentioning the losses incurred by the government due to the non-payment of tolls and to take steps to prevent the practice.
"The meeting decided to take steps so that none, barring a very few exceptions, can use roads and bridges without paying tolls," an official of the Road Transport and Highways Division told this correspondent wishing not to be named.
The Daily Star could not reach the secretary of the Road Transport and Highways Division for comments as he is now abroad.