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Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority (WASA) managing director Taqsem A Khan has left Bangladesh for the US on a three-month leave without handing over responsibilities to anyone. Instead, he has issued an office order appointing himself as "online MD" for the time.

WASA officials have raised questions over the move especially at a time when people of different areas in the capital are facing water crisis. The concerned officials said someone is made acting in-charge or endowed with an additional responsibility in cases like this. But Taqsem has not done anything.

According to the office order, the WASA MD signed, he will be on leave from 25 April to 24 July for treatment and to meet family members in the US. If he could not enjoy the leave for any reason that time, the three-month leave order will be effective from the date of his leaving the country. WASA public relations department said Taqsem left Dhaka for USA on 27 April.

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The office order also said Taqsem A. Khan himself will work as an MD for policy and other issues during his stay abroad. For this he will communicate with email, FaceTime, Viber, WhatsApp and video conference.

The WASA office order said the heads of various departments will carry out their routine duties when Taqsem A Khan is in the US. They could contact him anytime for any necessity. Dhaka WASA director (development) Abul Kashem will chair different meetings on behalf of the MD and carry out routine duties.

The local government ministry on 16 March issued the three-month leave order from 20 March to 19 June or from the date of starting the journey. The order mentioned that WASA director (development) will carry out routine duties but it did not talk about his duties as an MD.

The ministry’s additional secretary (water supply) Muhammad Ibrahim told Prothom Alo, “As per the order of the ministry, WASA director (development) Abul Kashem will work as an MD. We’ll contact him.”

“I haven’t seen the office order issued by Taqsem A Khan. That’s his internal affair. Abul Kashem could consult him but Taqsem A Khan won’t remain in charge,” he added.

Former additional secretary Mohammad Firoz Mia, who has written books on public service rules, said according to the rules of WASA, Taqsem A Khan is a round-the-clock official. He is supposed to handover responsibilities to another person if he goes abroad for an extended period. Carrying out routine duties is like the task of a security guard, done only in shifts.

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Firoz Mia said according to the leave order, issued by the local government ministry, Taqsem A Khan cannot even touch any documents in that time. He asked who would be responsible for administrative and financial issues if a person carries out the routine duties only? WASA MD cannot give him charge through an office order this way. He cannot handle administrative and financial responsibilities during leave.

The time difference between Bangladesh and the US will also create hindrances in the WASA works.

Taqsem A Khan was made WASA MD in 2009. Since then he has been carrying out the duties. Despite severe criticism of his role in ensuring qualities of WASA services, he was reappointed for sixth term on 1 October last year. Allegations of corruption arose every time.

Earlier, he was in the US from 11 June to 10 July 2019 in the same manner. He signed documents from the US while the person, given charge to carry out routine duties, kept his duties limited to issuing letters only.

Prothom Alo sent questions in this regard to Taqsem A Khan’s WhatsApp number. He saw the questions but did not answer while WASA director (development) Abul Kashem did not respond to any phone call from Prothom Alo.

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

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