Employees’ Association’s Tk 1.76b ‘misappropriated’

Dhaka WASA headquartersFile photo

Several officials of Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority (WASA) have allegedly misappropriated Tk 1.76 billion (176 crore) of the Employees’ Association, reveals an audit report.

The officials allegedly involved with the misappropriation of the fund were at the leadership position of the association at different times.

Department of Cooperatives prepared the special audit report and submitted it to the Local Government Ministry, Department of Cooperatives and Dhaka WASA authorities in June, 2021. The report also recommended taking punitive action against the people involved with the fund misappropriation after further investigations. The WASA authorities, however, have not taken any action as yet.

Sources from the Department of Cooperatives said they audited the financial transactions conducted between 1 July 2018 and 30 June 2020 only. The Department could not conduct audit of any other time as they were not provided with the documents of earlier times. As a result, they could not find out whether there was any more misappropriation.

Prothom Alo phoned Dhaka WASA Managing Director Taqsem A Khan, Director (Development) Abul Kashem and Secretary Shamin Haque but neither picked up the calls. Neither did WASA provide any answer when answers were sought in writing through the WASA’s Deputy Chief Public Relations Officer, AM Mostafa Tareque on 25 April.

What the audit reveals

The source of this huge income of the Association is commission from the customers’ bills. The association, as a tender company, collected bills from seven revenue zones of Dhaka WASA from 1996 to 2018. They received 10 per cent commission against this collection.

According to the audit report, WASA deposited Tk 1.34 billion as commission to the Association’s bank account in 2017-18 and 2018-19 financial years. But the actual deposit, the auditors found, was Tk 17.9 million (1 crore and 79 lakhs). The team of auditors did not find the whereabouts of another Tk 1.32 billion.

The audit report further said Tk 442.1 million (Tk 44 crore and 21 lakhs) was withdrawn from the Association’s bank account from 1 July 2018 and 30 June 2020. But there was no account of the money.

Dhaka WASA’s incumbent additional chief engineer Md Aktaruzzaman was the president of the former committee of the Employees’ Association and interim chairman of bill collection proceedings. Revenue inspector Zakir Hossain was the general secretary of that committee while revenue inspector Mia Md Mizanur Rahman, who is on the PRL, was the co-chairman of the bill collection proceedings.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, additional chief engineer Md Aktaruzzaman said, “The allegation of irregularities that has been brought, actually took place during the tenure of the previous president. I don’t know why I am being subjected to questions every time. More investigation needs to be done on financial irregularities.”

However, it appeared to the audit team that the money was misappropriated during the presidency of Md Aktaruzzaman.

Non-cooperation in auditing

A team lead Dhaka Metropolitan Thana cooperative official, Md Rezaul Bari performed the audit. A notice for the audit was issued in September, 2020. At the same time, the Department of Cooperatives sent a letter to the committee to extend all necessary cooperation. But the Department of Cooperatives sources said the committee did not cooperate with the audit team.

The previous committee did not even handover the income and expenditure accounts to the new committee that took charges on 29 December 2020 after an election. The election took place after several years’ tension.

New committee members said they could not submit any accounts to the audit team as they did not get the income and expenditure accounts from the previous committee.

The Department of Cooperatives said, in this context, the audit report was prepared based on the audit report made during the previous committee, bank accounts’ details, organisational and Department of Cooperatives’ documents.

‘People involved are close to WASA administration’

Members of current Dhaka WASA Employees’ Welfare Association said instead of taking action against the perpetrators, the WASA authorities have kept the current committee under pressure. Case has been filed by the department against the 10 elected members on allegation of breaking Covid-19 related health guidelines during the association’s election.

They further said though the WASA has not renewed the bill collection agreement, it is not handing over the association’s wealth worth Tk 2 billion that include 25 vehicles, 62,481 metres and security money.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, Dhaka WASA Employees’ Welfare Association current general secretary Shahab Uddin said the money has been embezzled in association with the Dhaka WASA high ups. No action is being taken as the people involved are close to the WASA administration.

He further said they have forcefully kept the association’s funds to themselves.

* The report, originally published in print and online editions of Prothom Alo, has been rewritten for English edition by Shameem Reza