A total of 32 work orders issued in the names of companies owned by Faridpur town Awami League general secretary Sajjad Hossain Barkat and his brother Imtiaz Hasan Rubel, have been cancelled. The Local Government Engineering Department (LGED) cancelled these orders between 3 September and 30 September. These cancelled work orders amount to almost Tk 2 billion (Tk 200 crore).
Faridpur LGED officials said that the companies owned by these two brothers collected Tk 500 million (Tk 50 crore) in advance as soon as the work orders were issued. Six other work orders issued in favour of their companies are also in the process of being cancelled.
Barkat and Rubel, who had been close to the Faridpur Sadar member of parliament, former minister Khandker Mosharraf Hossain, are presently in jail. They were arrested on 7 June for their involvement in an attack on the house of district Awami League president, Subal Chandra Saha. There are 11 cases against the two brothers so far. They have given confessional statements in these cases. Their property has been seized in the money laundering case filed by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID). And, following court orders, 88 bank accounts of Barkat and Rubel have also been frozen.
Speaking to Prothom Alo, the Faridpur LGED executive engineer, KM Faruk Hossain, said that according to the public procurement rules (PPR), LGED can cancel any work order if the development work is held up for 28 days at a stretch for no valid reason. In keeping with this provision, 32 of their work orders have been cancelled.
According to several officials of LGED, 25 work orders of the company in Barkat's own name, Sajjad Barkat Construction and Engineering Ltd, have been cancelled. There are four other work orders in the name of another firm of his, Messrs Protyasha Enterprise. Then there are two more in the name of his brother Rubel's company Rafia Construction Limited and also, jointly with Rafia Construction, in the name of SBEL.
The cancelled work includes the construction of a bridge over the river Padma at Bhajondanga in Faridpur sadar. A 580 metre bridge is being constructed there at a cost of Tk 770 million (Tk 77 crore). Though the bridge is over the main river, on paper it is being shown as a tributary of Padma.
Work has not even begun on 15 of the 32 cancelled work orders. In one of the work orders has 20 per cent of the work been completed. In two of the orders, 40 per cent has been completed. In three of the orders, 60 per cent has been completed. In six orders, 80 cent has been completed. And 81 to 92 per cent of the work has been completed for five orders.
Ninety per cent of the work has been completed on the development of the 3km road from Dangi Masjid to Mohan Miah Notun Haat of the North Channel union. The allocation for this was Tk 21.2 million (Tk 2 crore 12 lakh). Eighty per cent of the work has been completed on 2 RCC box culverts of Bhanga upazila. The allocation for this was Tk 11.2 million (Tk 1 crore 12 lakh). And 75 per cent of the work has been completed on the 2.75km road of Mohan Miah Notun Haat in North Channel union. The allocation for this was Tk 21.2 million (Tk 2 crore 12 lakh).
Of the cancelled 32 work orders, 34.68 per cent of the work has been completed. And 25.89 per cent of the payment has already been collected for this.
Toufiq Hossain had bought tender documents for a Tk 6.5 million work order in 2018. Just for this, he was attacked by the 'helmet gang' of AHM Foad, an associate of Barkat and Rubel. They beat him up and rendered him unconscious.
The executive engineer went on to say that as soon as the work was halted, the companies were informed by registered mail, but the letters simply came back. A second letter was sent, stating that the contracts would be cancelled upon 28 days of the work being halted. This letter came back too, with no recipient being found at the given addresses.
Executive engineer KM Faruk Hossain, when asked what would be done about the payments that had already been made in advance, said that calculations would be made as to how much had been withdrawn and how much remained outstanding. Tenders would be floated afresh and work would be restarted.
Faridpur police and LGED officials admitted that these two brothers had resorted to all sorts of underhand tender under political shelter to get those contracts. They did not restrict their tender manipulations to their own areas, but even controlled LGED contracts in 9 other districts.
The two brothers, after being arrested, admitted all this in the confessions both during CID police interrogations and in court. They named more of their accomplices too.
Faridpur superintendent of police, Md Alimuzzaman, told Prothom Alo that so far 16 persons had been arrested for criminal activities in Faridpur town and arrests of their accomplices continue.
Investigating officer in the money laundering case against the two brothers, CID's assistant superintendent of police Uttam Kumar Biswas, said that the brothers had said that outside of Faridpur, they had work contracts in Khulna, Gopalganj, Manikganj, Magura, Patuakhali, Sherpur, Sylhet, Gazipur and Dinajpur. They did not allow other contractors to submit bids for these works.
Toufiq Hossain, son of the deceased Faridpur 1 member of parliament Delwar Hossain, was one such victims of these tender manipulations. He told Prothom Alo, he had bought tender documents for a Tk 6.5 million (Tk 65 lakh) work order in 2018. Just for this, he was attacked by the 'helmet gang' of AHM Foad, an associate of Barkat and Rubel. The beat him up and rendered him unconscious.
*This report appeared in the print and online editions of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten for the English edition by Ayesha Kabir