THE reported cases of corruption in the Khulna offices of Bangladesh Telecommunications Company Limited (BTCL), formerly BTTB, illustrate the utter disregard for accountability and a minimum standard of honesty of all those involved. This one instance has robbed the government exchequer, and consequently the tax-payers, of more than Taka 30 crore over a period of seven years. It is not only the amount involved, but also the manner in which public money was embezzled, that leaves us dumbfounded.
This is a classic example of the endemic institutional corruption, where one unit of a public establishment has tried to outdo the other in fraudulence and deceitful enterprise. And to top it all, only a small percentage of the work has been completed.
It amuses us a great deal to see the improvisation - showing, in one case, the use of 122 labourers in fixing a single toilet pan, and in another, a similar number of labourers in another office of the BTCL Khulna division, employed for cleaning shrubs and sewerage line.
Regrettably, such gross and brazen examples abound in our public sector. We have cases where bills have been paid for construction of roads without those being completed, of incomplete bridges whose payments had been made well before the work was started, some of which are still awaiting completion even many years after the scheduled dates. These acts of corruption are committed in connivance with, and full knowledge of, everyone up and down the chain. And everyone in the loop takes a share of the misappropriated money, even those that are supposed to maintain oversight and ensure financial discipline in these institutions.
The top managements cannot absolve themselves of their responsibility in this regard, for they have failed to exercise appropriate supervision, not only of the physical work for which the money was sanctioned but also the paper work that was used to process the money bills. And, we are constrained to ask, where were the internal and external auditing and the oversight by those that are supposed to scrutinise all aspects of a bill before putting those up for final approval?
It is therefore for the government and the ACC to rake out all those at key positions of responsibility, through proper investigation, and give them the most exemplary punishment that should act as deterrence for future to everyone. All the talks of ridding the country of corruption will sound hollow if the system cannot be cured of the disease that has taken a firm root. Little will come off any drive to root out corruption if the problem is not addressed in its entirety.