Biman recruitment test: High officials linked to question leak
On 21 October 2022, Biman Bangladesh was to hold a recruitment exam for 10 posts for electricians, mechanics, welders, painters, operators and tailors. Around two hours before the exam, the recruitment process was suspended -- the question paper had been leaked.
Records indicate the leak was not a spur of the moment decision by any lower-level official, but may have been an elaborate plot executed over several months by members of Biman top brass.
A series of seemingly coincidental, dubious transfers and personnel placements took place involving at least three members of the committee responsible for preparing the question papers, to put the right people at the right place at the right time.
One of them is Major Taiz Ibne Anowar, general manager of the ground service equipment department and deputy general manager of the security department. He was a member of the committee formed to prepare the question paper.
Both Taiz and Biman's Managing Director Zahid Hussain rejected they had any link with the leak.
GOES TO THE TOP
Biman motor transport operators Jahangir Alam, Md Masud and Mahbub Ali -- who have since been arrested over the leak -- named Taiz as a culprit in their confessional statements.
Masud, the major's driver, said in his confession that Taiz himself handed him a set of question papers between 3:00pm and 4:00pm on October 20, the day before the recruitment test.
"Two days before the exam, around 5:00pm to 6:00pm on October 19, 2022, the Major's driver Masud called me to tell me that he got the questions from major sir and asked me to take it from him the next day. On October 20, around 12:00pm to 1:00pm, I received a phone call from Masud. Masud asked me to meet him at his house, and I went to his house in Dolipara. He had a printer and he printed two copies of the question paper," said Mahbub Ali, driver of Biman's MD Zahid Hussain, in his confessional statement.
He then took the question paper from Masud, under the condition that he would have to give him Tk 1 lakh in exchange.
"I went to see him that night in front of his house. He told me to go in front of major sir's house. Around midnight, the major came downstairs and engaged in an altercation with his driver, Masud. Major 'sir' saw me and … Masud introduced me as MD sir's operator," Mahbub added.
"Major sir asked his driver to show him the WhatsApp message with the image of the question paper, and matched it with a hard copy in his bag," he described.
Mahbub gave Masud Tk 20,000, promising the rest later.
Jahangir in his confession said he photocopied a set of the question paper to hand over to two department drivers in exchange of Tk 4 lakh -- half of it to be handed over to Major Taiz.
A Biman probe also points the finger at Major Taiz for the leak, although it did not investigate the Biman MD. The committee did not even question the MD, the very man it was reportable to.
The Daily Star has seen a copy of the report, submitted to the civil aviation ministry recently.
RIGHT PEOPLE AT THE RIGHT TIME?
But how Taiz came to be in the question paper preparation committee was seemingly executed over eight months.
A gazette notification dated March 2, 2020 from the Ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism shows Taiz was brought from the core of the artillery department of Bangladesh Army to Biman Bangladesh as a DGM (security). He joined the office the next day.
Two months before the question paper leak, on July 7, 2022, he was given the post of general manager of ground service equipment department of Biman, as additional duties.
To put him in this chair, SKM Reza, the then general manager of the department, was made an "attachment director" of the administration department.
An officer described what this post is.
"You have no room, no table, no chair, no office. You have to report to the office every morning, sign in using the biometric device, and then spend the rest of the work day sitting on chairs in the visiting room."
After 35 years of service, Reza was given this humiliating post, just before he was due to go into retirement.
Replacing him was Taiz, who had joined Biman just two years back.
On October 16, 2022, three months after he assumed the extra duties as general manager of ground service equipment department, Taiz was co-opted in the question paper preparation committee.
According to the office order, the committee was formed on March 10, 2020, composed of the director of administration, the principal of Bangladesh Airlines Training Centre (BATC) and the general manager of administration.
The order said the committee will be able to co-opt any officials of Biman and external experts.
Just four days before the exam, two people were co-opted -- Major Taiz and the chief engineer of engineering and production.
Documents show that the recruitment and staffing department authorities held a meeting on October 13, 2022, deciding to co-opt Taiz, and the order was meted out on October 16, 2022.
The question paper was to be submitted to the committee in two days, on October 18 , and at least for the exam for the junior operator (GSE), the just-included Taiz was to craft and submit as many as 50 questions, sources confirmed.
Four days later, he would be accused of leaking the question paper by two motor transport officers.
Taiz rejected the allegations.
"I have read the confessional statements of Masud and Jahangir. What they said about me is untrue," he said.
Asked about his driver, he said Masud, who had been his driver for a year, admitted to the guilt in his confession.
"I heard him taking calls while in the car about external engagements, but I did not profess any interest in it. I think they named me because the managing director likes me, and I come from the Army and maybe they thought they would be able to get some advantage," he said.
Biman Managing Director Md Zahid Hossain said Reza was removed because he was sick. "He used to be sick and could not work, so we put Taiz in his place," he said.
Another series of seemingly dubious transfers took place to make Nazmul Huda the principal of BATC.
Since April 13, 2019, Shahnur Ahmed had been the General Manager of Management Development Faculty of BATC.
Other than her, there was only one more general manager (in customer service) in the organisation, and hence it was known that seniority-wise Shahnur was next in line to be the principal, according to sources. She had spent two-thirds of her career as an instructor.
On September 14, 2022, Shahnur was sent to Biman's Printing and Publications department. This department is internally known as a place where people are sent for punishment.
On September 27, 2022, thirteen days after Shahnur's transfer, Nazmul Huda was promoted directly to the post of principal from a deputy general manager of the Training Department.
Nazmul denied any foul play, and said the management decided this, not him.
"I did not ask for this position, the management made the choice," he said.
He declined to comment on the question paper leak.
Then there is Biman's managing director himself. In addition to being the MD and Chief Executive Officer (CEO), he was the director of marketing and sales as well as director of administration and human resources.
Personnel transfer records show that despite the fact that the ministry had sent an officer of similar level to Biman to take up one of these empty posts being held by the MD as additional responsibility, the officer was not allowed to begin office until the question paper leak blew up.
Zahid was director of administration and human resources when he was promoted to MD and CEO on July 13, 2022 -- but he still held the post of the director of admin and HR since a replacement was not sent on deputation by the ministry yet.
The director of administration and human resource is the chair of the question paper preparation committee.
On August 21, 2022, a joint secretary named Kamrul Hasan was sent on deputation by the public administration ministry to join Biman as a director. He reported to the ministry of civil aviation and tourism on September 12, 2022 as being available to join the flag carrier's organisation.
Biman recruited the director only on November 9, 2022, after the question paper leak had been uncovered and law enforcers had arrested the main suspects.
Even though Kamrul had been available for work at least one and a half months prior to the recruitment exam, Zahid Hossain had not vacated the chair of director of admin, a post that leads the question paper preparation committee.
When Kamrul was brought in, the director of customer service was made the director of administration and HR, and Kamrul was placed in the empty seat of the director of customer service.
The Biman MD denied being involved with the question paper leak.
Regarding Kamrul, he said, "After Kamrul's appointment by the ministry, I had to wait for a board meeting for the board to say yes, before I could appoint him. His matter was raised in the next board meeting after the ministry sent him," he said.
Biman Board Chairman Sajjadul Hasan, a former senior secretary at the Prime Minister's Office, said appointments and transfers are done by Biman's management, and not by the board.
"They simply let the board know. If someone is joining Biman, they will report to the MD," he said.
Asked if the joining date is decided by the MD, he replied in affirmative. He also said that there had been more than one board meeting between August and October.
According to an administrative order dated April 26, 2022, signed by the Biman MD himself, the recruitment committee was to have a ministry official on it. But there are no official records -- internal documents, attendance sheets or minute records from any of the committee's meetings -- that this committee took in any ministry official.
State Minister for civil aviation M Mahbub Ali said apart from law enforcement agencies, an internal investigation is going on and stern actions will be taken against those involved in the question paper leak.
"Leaking a question paper for recruitment is a crime. We won't spare anyone involved in the crime," he said.