Titas uses minister's name to provide gas connection, inquiry ordered

Titas Gas Transmission and Distribution Company Limited logo

Silver Knit Composite Textile Limited applied for a gas connection to establish an export-oriented industrial plant in Gazipur. On the application form's top corner, the Managing Director (MD) of Titas Gas, Haronur Rashid Mullah, commented, "Recommended from the minister's office, please see."

The application was submitted in November 2021, and the MD of Titas commented on it a year later in November 2022. Subsequently, the MD of Titas sent the application form to the Deputy Managing Director (Gazipur), and the company was later granted a gas connection. 

On 24 August, one Abdul Latif filed a complaint with the Principal Secretary of the Prime Minister's Office regarding this incident, particularly concerning the use of the minister's name for recommending the gas connection. In his complaint, he also leveled accusations against the MD of Titas. 

Notably, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina serves as the Minister of Power, Energy, and Mineral Resources, while Nasrul Hamid holds the position of state minister. 

In response to the complaint, the Prime Minister's Office sent a letter to the Energy and Mineral Resources Division on 29 August, instructing an investigation into the incident and subsequent action.

The letter explicitly ,mentioned "taking action against those responsible for accepting bribes and engaging in various other irregularities, including providing Titas gas connection to industrial establishments using the name of the Honorable Minister of the Ministry of Power, Energy and Mineral Resources (the Honorable Prime Minister)."

Furthermore, the letter called for the PMO to be informed once appropriate action was taken. 

According to Titas sources, the Silver Knit factory is not located in an industrial zone or any government-designated economic zone. Nonetheless, the proposal for granting a gas connection to this company was approved by the Titas board.

However, the circular issued by the energy division on 31 August 2021, stated, "The provision of gas connection to the industries at any location outside the designated industrial zone will be suspended." 

The Energy Division wrote to Bangladesh Oil, Gas, and Mineral Resources Corporation Petrobangla on 12 September, instructing them to investigate the complaint against Titas Managing Director (Contractual), Haronur Rashid Mullah.

The letter directed Petrobangla to submit the report with comments within one month. Titas Gas Transmission and Distribution Company Limited is the company under Petrobangla that suppplies gas in the capital Dhaka and adjacent districts. 

In compliance with the energy division's instructions, Petrobangla issued an office order on Sunday, forming a five-member investigation committee. The Director (Administration) of the organisation, Altaf Hossain, has been appointed as the convener of the committee.

Among the other four members of the inquiry committee, three are Petrobangla officials, and one is from the energy division. Petrobangla Chairman Zanendra Nath Sarker instructed to submit the report within 20 days after the investigation. 

Haronur Rashid Mullah was contractually appointed as the MD of Titas on 29 September 2021, while serving as the MD of Jalalabad Gas Distribution System Limited, on the condition of surrendering the Post-Retirement Leave (PRL) for one year.

In 2022, he had his contract renewed for another year. Now, the energy division has approved his reappointment as MD on a contractual basis for another year. 

Following Petrobangla's recommendations sent on 22 August, an office order from the energy division on 24 August stated that a decision was made to reappoint Haronur Rashid Mullah as the MD of Titas Gas on 29 September or for one year from the time of joining.

Consequently, Petrobangla is expected to execute a new contract with him. However, the contract process has been stalled due to the ongoing investigation into the complaint.  

On 11 September, a correspondent visited the Titas Gas office and talked to the company's MD, Haronur Rashid Mullah, to inquire about the specifics concerning the gas connection application's recommendation.

Haronur Rashid Mullah informed Prothom Alo that since his third appointment as the MD of Titas Gas, many individuals have conspired against him, filing complaints in various departments. He claims that none of the allegations against him are true. 

When attention was brought to the overall situation, Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) Executive Director Iftekharuzzaman told Prothom Alo, "If the Prime Minister's office has requested an investigation, nothing can be more important than this. Titas is often implicated in various irregularities. An impartial investigation should reveal the whole picture."