Whereas Ugandan people face acute crisis of safe water, some 41 officials of Chittagong WASA, different ministries and departments have travelled to the East-Central African country for receiving training on safe drinking water, officials have said.
WASA board members, however, raised questions about the necessity of the tours. Two board members termed those ‘pleasure trips’.
A section of officials think that top WASA officials have organised the tours to make the officials and employees ‘happy’.
The officials pointed out that the officials of ministries and departments were chosen for the visit to take various undue facilities including approval of the project.
Chittagong Water Supply and Sewerage Authority (CWASA) is implementing ‘Chittagong Water Supply Improvement and Sanitation Project (CWISP)’ worth Tk 18 billion funded by World Bank to improve the water, sanitation, and drainage infrastructure in the port city.
Uganda’s National Water and Sewerage Corporation is working as a consultant for ‘capacity building of WASA’ under the project. They are taking Tk 1.1 billion for the work.
And the consultant firm has taken 27 officials of Chittagong WASA and 14 officials of different ministries and departments to Uganda for training in four phases.
Some 15 officials have also gone to Netherlands under the project.
A WASA official said an amount of at least Tk 50 million was spent on the tours. Although World Bank initially paid the money for the tours, WASA will have to pay back the amount with interest, the official added.
Prothom Alo talked to five officials from last two trips. The officials said they flew to Dhaka from Chattogram by a flight where officials of the ministries joined them. They went to Entebbe International Airport of Uganda via Dubai from Shahjalal International Airport.
The officials said they were taken to capital Kampala and then to Jinja town of Uganda where they visited Lake Victoria, one of the source of Nile river.
They also visited the equator and water project and participated in various workshops, the officials said adding after the tour, they got Tk 200,000 as ‘pocket money’.
CWISP project’s deputy director Mohammad Ariful Islam told Prothom Alo, “Uganda is not technically developed in water management than us, but they are developed in office management and customer service. Their roads are cleaner than ours. Chittagong WASA is trying to implement those things.”
Asked about inducting officials of ministries in the team although they have no link to the project, Ariful said that it was in the Development Project Proposal (DPP) during the approval.
Chattogram WASA managing director AKM Fazlullah said that officials visited Uganda following World Bank’s suggestion.
World Bank funded the project and they insisted training to Uganda, the WASA top official added.
Uganda tours in four phases
Some 8 leaders of four employees associations-Sramik League affiliated Chattogram WASA Sramik Karmachari Union, Jatiyatabadi Sramik Dal affiliated Sramik Karmachari Union, non partisan sramik karmachari union and pro government Chattogram WASA employees’ union-- of WASA visited Uganda for the first time in 2016.
Some 15 officials travelled in the second phase between 15 and 24 December 2017. Eight of them are WASA officials. Seven government officials including local government division’s deputy secretary and economic relations division’s senior assistant secretary were also on the entourage.
A 3-member WASA team also went to Uganda between 26 May and 4 June this year.
In last phase between 13 and 23 July, eight WASA officials and seven ministry officials toured the country.
Two trips to Netherlands
15 more officials visited Netherlands under the same project. A Netherlands based organisation named ‘UNESCO-IHE’ is also working as consultant of the project.
Seven WASA officials and eight from different ministries visited the country in two phases.
As many as 24 officials of Chattogram WASA out of 50 visited two countries under the project.
Difference between Bangladesh and Uganda
According to Water.org, a non-profit organisation which works to provide safe drinking water and sanitation in developing countries, 61 per cent of Ugandans lack access to safe water and 75 per cent do not have access to improved sanitation facilities.
Uganda’s per capita income is USD 750 while Bangladesh’s USD 1,909.
Average life expectancy of Bangladesh’s male and female is 70.8 and 73.8 years respectively while Ugandan male and female enjoy 54 and 55 years life expectancy on average.
But Bangladesh and Uganda are on a par in terms of corruption. Both the countries are ranked 13th in the last report of graft watchdog Transparency International.
Sachetan Nagorik Committee-TIB Chattogram chapter’s president Akter Kabir Chowdhury expressed discontent over the tours by WASA officials.
“People of Chattogram don’t get safe water. They suffer from road digging throughout the year. But the officials are busy in foreign trips at the expense of public money. The Anti Corruption Commission should look into it,” Akter told Prothom Alo.
He also raised question about receiving training in Uganda while the country is lagging behind Bangladesh in almost every sector.
* This report, originally published in Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten in English by Galib Ashraf.