No end to power-sector malfeasance
We continue to be baffled by the myriad forms that corruption takes on in our public services sector. A recent report by Prothom Alo narrates how security guards have been "hired" by Titas Gas Transmission and Distribution Company Limited, over the last five years at least, but under the identities of deceased, former, or retired employees. These fake employees have paid bribes of Tk 90,000 to even Tk 3 lakh in order to get a job at the monopolistic gas distribution company, only to be told that they would have to work under the names of previous employees. The culprits of such a process are employees within Titas Gas and those of Panther Security Services Ltd, the contractor company which is supposed to supply Titas with security personnel.
However, as Panther Security alleges, they are only allowed to "hire" people recommended by Titas employees and that it would be impossible for them to appoint a security guard to Titas without its approval. But no matter what, the responsibility to keep a check on such irregularities lies with Titas Gas itself – and it has failed miserably on this account.
Such a revelation of the corruption taking place in Titas is hardly surprising, given that other companies under the energy sector have been equally diligent in practising irregularities for years, without facing any accountability. Just last week, we expressed our disappointment at the Comptroller and Auditor General's (CAG) findings that the state coffer has been robbed of about Tk 4,697 crore because of irregularities in 11 companies under Petrobangla between FY 2014-15 and FY 2016-17, and in two companies of the Bangladesh Petroleum Corporation (BPC) in FY 2013-14.
The security recruitment corruption at Titas, too, has been going on for years. Even though the company secretary Lutful Haider himself pioneered the formation of a probe committee, after the matter started to come to the fore, no satisfactory actions have been taken based on the probe report as of yet. And despite being in charge of Titas Gas' security department for the longest time, Haider claims that he had no knowledge of these irregularities for years. But this is no excuse. Rather, it shows the extent to which Titas Gas authorities lack a sense of duty to identify and check corruption within the company.
We hope that the state minister for power, energy and mineral resources will follow through with his promise that "stern action would be taken against those who are responsible" in this situation. But we also believe that it is high time for the government itself to stop being wilfully unaware or in denial regarding the various irregularities and immense corruption taking place across its arms, and especially in organisations which are supposed to provide the public with quality services. Oblivion, or the pretence of it, is no longer an option.