Millions taken out of child protection allowance for staff recruitment

The cost of recruiting 310 staff in two posts has been estimated at Tk 25 million (Tk 2.5 crore). And there are allegations of irregularities in that recruitment.

The objective of the project is to build a defence system against child negligence and abuse. The project is also stated to provide child protection allowance on condition of preventing child marriage, hazardous labour and school dropping out. More than Tk 330 million (Tk 33 crore) had been allocated for this.

However, Tk 25 million (Tk 2.5 crore) has been deducted from the child protection allowance to recruit 310 staff in two posts under the project. This has happened in the ‘Child Sensitive Social Protection in Bangladesh (CSPB) Phase-2’ project of the department of social services.

The project is being operated with government funding (GOB) and United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF aids. The overall cost of this Phase-2 project has been estimated to be more than Tk 2.2 billion (Tk 220.85 crore). Out of that, Tk 235.8 million (Tk 23.58 crore) is government funding while the rest is the project donation of that agency.

Phase-1 of CSPB project continued from 2012 to June 2017. In Phase-2, the duration of the project is from July 2017 till 31 December 2024. According to data from the department of social services website, under this project special arrangements have been made in 11 city corporation areas and 52 upazilas in 26 districts of the country.

The goal of this is to improve child-friendly social protection programmes and to create a balanced environment for one million (10 lakh) children and member of the community within this year.

In June last year, this correspondent met 18 underprivileged children at a temporary shelter set up under this project at Showarighat in Old Dhaka. Some of them vend food on launches while some have parents who are laborers. They stay at the shelter when their parents aren’t around. They have lunch there and spend their time in studying or sports.

Back then an adolescent named Md Safayet Islam had said that he had fled from home for his mother had sent him to work in a carpenter's shop after the death of his father. Now, he vends items on launches. Along with three other adolescent workers, he stays at the tent shelter.

Expenditure coordination in staff recruitment

The ministry of social welfare had held a meeting on 6 August last year to source the cost of holding recruitment test for appointing staff in the project. The meeting was presided over by the then social welfare secretary, Jahangir Alam.

In that meeting, additional secretary (planning, development and law) at the ministry of social welfare, Jobaida Begum had stated that there’s an issue of appointing 310 new staff in the revised TAPP (Technical Assistant Project Proposal) of the project.

However the recruitment process cannot be completed for there’s no allocation for recruitment-related expenditure in the RTAPP of the project. And the department of social welfare has sought Tk 26.1 million (Tk 2 crore 61 lakh 74 thousand) from the unspent fund of the project’s GOB allocation, she added.

For the recruitment test, Tk 10 million (1 crore) has been withdrawn from the child protection allowance while, the remaining Tk 16 million (Tk 1.6 crore) has been deducted from the meeting, seminar and workshop fund, value added tax (VAT) as well as from the honorary allowance.

Child protection allowance hasn’t started yet

Providing conditional child allowance under the project hasn’t been launched yet. The condition is that the guardians would receive the allowance on behalf of the children with the promise that instead of sending the children to work or arranging child marriage for them, they would send the children to school.

Till this 15 February, SM Lablur Rahman was the director of this project. On the topic of taking away fund from the child protection allowance, he told Prothom Alo that the children need these staff. Failing to source funds from any other sources, funds have been deducted from the child protection allowance.

About the recruitment of staff just 10 months before the project being expired, he said that they had been trying to recruit staff for the past two years but couldn’t do it till now for the lack of funds.

Reportedly, despite the submission of about 175,000 applications for those 310 vacant posts only 27,000 of them attended the recruitment test. Out of the 2,538 candidates supposed to seat for the test at Shekhdi Abdullah Mollah High School centre in capital’s Jatrabari area, only 362 were present.

Lablur Rahman said it cost them about Tk 15 million (Tk 1.5 crore) to recruit the staff and the rest of the money has been kept. The recruitment process has been completed already.

And there have been allegations of irregularities regarding this recruitment. For example, allegations have been raised of passing a few relatives of some employees of the department of social services with additional marks.

When asked how would the children be given allowance for 17 months moving towards the end of the project duration, Lablur Rahman said that all arrangements have already been made to distribute the allowance among children.

The new project director will start disbursing the allowances. The allowances will be distributed by counting 17 months from last year’s June, he added.

When asked, the new director of the project, joint secretary (directorate of operations) Md Sarwar Hossain told Prothom Alo that he has taken up the responsibility just recently. He’s not aware of the recruitment of staff by cutting down on the child protection fund. And he also has to enquire about since when the children will be provided allowances.

General secretary of civil society organisation Shushashoner Jonno Nagorik, Badiul Alam Majumdar told Prothom Alo that when it comes to such projects, it is noticed that most of the funds are spent on staff. Plus, there are irregularities in recruitment. The meaning of not having allocation for manpower in this project is that the project had not been formulated properly.

He believes that the underprivileged children are already living amongst various deprivation, discrimination and malnutrition. So, cutting down on the allowances allocated for them to recruit staff isn’t desirable at all.

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