How high up does the depravity go?
Corruption, like an insidious parasite, has spread across government institutions of Bangladesh, eroding their very foundations and hindering crucial progress on various fronts. Take the Department of Youth Development (DYD), for instance, where corruption seems to have become a run-of-the-mill affair. According to a report by this daily, an investigation has revealed an embezzlement of Tk 13.96 crore by 10 officials and employees of the department and the accounts office in Zakiganj, Sylhet. With a DYD deputy director at the helm, the officials allocated funds for a skills training programme for the youth in Zakiganj in 2020-21 and 2021-22 – even though the programme ended in 2019 – which they then misappropriated, as per the probe report. What makes the situation more alarming is that this was the seventh such blatant act of dishonesty to be reported in the past two years.
While it is commendable that the DYD is conducting investigations into incidents of corruption, we are horrified to learn that those found guilty of misappropriating funds in the past have not only been insufficiently penalised but, in fact, rewarded. For instance, five separate investigations found that five assistant upazila youth development officers had misappropriated over Tk 26 lakh meant to provide youths with loans. But the DYD proceeded to promote four of them to the position of upazila youth development officer, after deciding to recover the embezzled funds from their pension benefits. A probe report by the ministry last year highlighted that dishonest and inefficient individuals had been picked over competent and honest officers in exchange of large sums of money.
Mokhlesur Rahman, a deputy director of the DYD at the time, found to be involved in the process, told a probe committee that he had only executed the directives of the director (administration) and the DG of DYD. However, not only was no investigation launched against them (as recommended by the probe committee), but Mokhlesur too was subsequently acquitted by Majbah Uddin, who was the secretary of the ministry at the time, and transferred to a different post. It is distressing that the authorities are taking allegations of corruption at the highest levels so lightly, which, in effect, is emboldening dishonest officials to siphon off public funds with impunity.
We urge the ACC and all ministries concerned to launch an immediate investigation into the matter and follow it up with stern actions against the perpetrators.