A Wasa shake-up is the need of the hour
In an unusual move, the chairman of Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority (Wasa) has reportedly written to the secretary of the local government ministry accusing Managing Director Taqsem A Khan of corruption and "autocratic" behaviour. Such accusations, straight from the horse's mouth, indeed deserve scrutiny. It is no secret that during his 14-year-long tenure, MD Taqsem has presided over a shambolic state of affairs that made headlines regularly but generated little response from the higher authorities.
There has been no dearth of problems and irregularities at this vital institution. You got reports on houses not receiving a water supply connection for years, or only getting unclean, foul-smelling water, or people facing harassment while seeking water supply connections or dealing with Wasa for other purposes. Despite such questionable service, Wasa has regularly and unjustifiably increased water tariffs, as many as 15 times between 2009 and 2022. While the public suffered, MD Taqsem's salary increased exponentially, as did Wasa's profits, which shows its lack of accountability. He also allegedly sacked multiple people who spoke up against him. Thus he, as per the Wasa chairman's letter, has turned it into "a den of corruption".
The question is, why have all these irregularities been allowed to go on for so long? At which point does the chairman of an organisation feel bound to formally bring complaints against its MD? Why is it that he has been reappointed again and again despite so many complaints against his administration? For over a decade now, there has been regular reporting on corruption being committed. Only the other day, an investigation by the Anti-Corruption Commission resulted in three Wasa officials being sued for embezzling Tk 249 crores from one project. This trend has to stop.
We urge the relevant ministry to treat the Wasa chairman's allegations with the seriousness that they deserve. If authorities want to convince the public that MD Taqsem's lengthy tenure is not a result of nepotism and favouritism, then a fair investigation is the way to go.