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This discrepancy took place in the ‘Safe Horticultural Crops Production and Post Harvest Technology Transfer Project’ of the DAE. The four-year project is being implemented from 2018 to 2022 at a cost of Tk 360 million (36 crore).

The project officials not only embezzled the money in the name of procuring stationary products, but also allegedly misappropriated the money by withdrawing honorarium for the project evaluation committee (PEC) meeting as well as the use of project vehicles.

There are allegations that relatives of the project director use one of the nine vehicles procured under the project. Three vehicles have been given to three additional secretaries of the agriculture ministry and acquaintances of the director use another vehicle of the project.

Prothom Alo ran a report on the matter on Friday. Meanwhile, the director handed over two of the project vehicles to the government’s transport pool.

Regarding irregularities in the project, director Md Shahinul Islam told Prothom Alo goods were procured at a lowest price from the company securing the tender. And the firm winning the bid also provided the invoices, he added.

Officials at the DAE, however, said it is necessary to form a probe body to look into these allegations of irregularities.

Embezzling honorarium with  fake signature

Various electronic machineries including computers and printers were procured for the project showing invoices under Tajko International of Agargaon in the the capital.

When Taslim Uddin, a partner of the company, was shown the receipts of the project procurement, he told Prothom Alo no products were purchased from his firm for this project.

Prothom Alo obtained invoices that showed payment of Tk 1.56 million (15.64 lakh) was made to Tajko International.

Forged signatures of several top officials at the planning commission and the director general of DAE, Md Asadullah, were also used in the documents of the project’s PEC meeting held on 10 June.

At least three officials attending the meeting told Prothom Alo it was not their signatures on the documents providing honorarium for PEC meeting.

Documents show Tk 90,000 was given as honorarium for attending the PEC meeting with officials receiving Tk 3,000 each.

When the documents on the PEC meeting honorarium were shown to Md Matiur Rahman, chief of the planning commission’s Agriculture, Water Resources and Rural Institutions Division, he said it was not his signature. And there is no provision to withdraw honorarium for a PEC meeting in such way, he added.

The same document had the signature of Md Asadullah, director general of DEA, but it does not match with his other signatures. “My signature is forged and we will look into this corruption,” the official said.

Bills and vouchers worth Tk 7.2 million (72 lakh) were shown in favour of M/S Mohona Enterprise and Filling Station for fuel and gas expenditure in the project.

Officials of the firm, which is located in Dhaka’s Gabtoli, declined comment.

Rampant corruption

Speaking to Prothom Alo, M Hafizuddin, former comptroller and auditor general, said corruption becomes rampant in the government-run projects. Internal monitoring system to curb corruption has become weak in the government offices and that is the main reason.

He said the Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) and the Implementation Monitoring and Evaluation Division (IMED) were supposed to monitor the operation and cost of the ministries and the directorates. The CAG and the IMED are not carrying out their duties properly and in some cases they even get involved in corruption related to projects, he added.

* This report appeared in the print and online edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Hasanul Banna

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