Bangladesh Telecommunications Company Limited (BTCL) suffered revenue loss of at least Tk2,000 crore in last six years due to corruption, revealed a TIB study yesterday.
Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) identified tampering with the BTCL's international call records as one of its major corrupted areas.
The state-owned telecom company during this period lost around Tk 1,500 crore in revenue due to doctoring in call records, said Dipu Roy, programme manager (research and policy) of TIB.
The study styled “BTCL: Challenges for good governance and way forward” was conducted between April 2012 and February 2014. It was released at a press conference at Brac Inn in the capital's Mohakhali.
The anti-graft watchdog found that a section of corrupt officials in the BTCL and telecom ministry manipulated the Call Detail Record (CDR) citing technical glitches at the International Trunk Exchange (ITX) at Mohakhali.
The CDR is a data record which contains information related to a telephone call, such as the origination and destination addresses of the call, the time the call started and ended and the duration of the call.
The company failed to keep records of international calls from 2011 to November, 2012 due to such technical faults. Though the duration of international calls was around 8.5 billion minutes in 2011, the BTCL showed only 5.79 billion minutes for lack of call records, mentioned Dipu Roy.
International carriers, said the study, now owe around Tk965 crore to the BTCL, of which Tk500 crore would not be realised due to fake bank guarantees submitted by some carriers.
According to the BTCL policy, international carriers have to provide bank guarantee to the BTCL in US dollar for exchanging international calls. But some companies submitted fake bank guarantees in local currency.
The study also found that the BTCL has been losing its land due to corruption by some of its officials. The telecom firm is the second largest owner of land among the government organisations. It has 1843.29 acres of land across the country, of which 196.19 acres is in Dhaka. But some quarters are grabbing BTCL land bribing a section of its officials and CBA leaders.
The TIB also identified irregularities in the repair and maintenance, human resource and transport pool of the BTCL. Some 40 percent of the fund allocated to the repair and maintenance department is spent illegally due to corruption.
In the 2008-09 fiscal year, the BTCL had made a profit of around Tk98 crore, while in the 2011-12 FY the company incurred a loss of around Tk 17 crore, according to statistics of Bangladesh Economic Review, 2013.
Speaking at the press conference, TIB Executive Director Dr Iftekharuzzaman said the BTCL has been in such a bad shape as the government transformed the company into a public limited firm without adopting any proper transition plan.
“The BTCL is so far neither a public limited company nor a government agency,” he mentioned, adding that its officials were facing identity crisis.
The state-run BTTB (Bangladesh Telegraph and Telephone Board) was transformed into a public limited company BTCL in July 2008 with a view to provide customers with better service.
The TIB suggested the government take necessary steps within next six months to ensure that the BTCL could be operated like the other public limited companies in the country.
It also urged the government to appoint people who have expertise in telecommunication business as the board members of the BTCL. In the current nine-member BTCL board, there are only three private sector representatives, which enables government officials dominate most of the board decisions.
The graft watchdog recommended merging the Teletalk and Bangladesh Submarine Company Ltd with the BTCL as many BTCL officials have been working in the two other companies.
The government made such division in the BTCL mainly in connivance with the private sector, said Iftekharuzzaman.
The TIB also stressed the need for setting up a separate unit of BTCL for providing vital telecom services to the government such as red phone for the VIPs, as such services are not offered with business motive.
TIB trustee board member M Hafizuddin Khan said the country still has a huge demand for fixed phones as mobile phones cannot be an alternative to that. He urged the BTCL to take necessary steps to minimise customer harassment.