Golap still resides in ministers’ quarter

Awami League’s central publicity and publications secretary Abdus Sobhan Golap doesn’t hold any government post. However, he still lives in a government bungalow, which is usually allocated to ministers or secretaries.

The bungalow is in the Minto Road area of the capital, popularly known as the ‘minister’s quarter’. Abdus Sobhan has been living there since 2016. He was allocated the bungalow as the special assistant of the prime minister that time. He has no longer been holding the post since 2018.

This correspondent tried to reach Abdus Sobhan in various ways for his comment in this regard. At one point, he received the phone on 29 January and said he still works as the special assistant to the prime minister, but doesn’t get any salary and allowances for that. He hung up the phone right after saying this. This correspondent tried him several times later, but he didn’t respond.

However, there is no mention of Abdus Sobhan on the list of special assistants to the prime minister on the relevant website. A reliable Awami Leader said on condition of anonymity that Abdus Sobhan has not been reappointed as the special assistant to the prime minister after 2018.

Abdus Sobhan contested the 12th parliamentary election with nomination of Awami League from the Madaripur-3 constituency and was defeated by independent candidate Tahmina Begum.

Golap in ministers’ quarter

Usually ministers are eager to get the allocation for the government bungalows in the Minto Road area. The duplex bungalows include gardens, trees and open spaces. Besides, the area is highly secured with wide roads. According to the public works department, many of the incumbent ministers sought allocation of government bungalows in the Minto Road area right after the formation of the new cabinet on 11 January.

According to the documents, the Directorate of Government Accommodation allocated a total of nine bungalows to the new ministers after the previous ministers left as of 29 January. However, they can’t allocate the bungalow number 42 as Abdus Sobhan Golap still resides there.

The security guards at the gate of bungalow-42 on 24 January told this correspondent that Abdus Sobhan Golap resides there. Asked whether it was possible to enter the house and talk to the people inside, they replied, “It’s not possible”.

The correspondent went to the office of public works secretary Kazi Wasi Uddin on 29 January, to learn how Abdus Sobhan got the allocation for the bungalow. He told Prothom Alo that he only knew that the bungalow was allocated to Abdus Sobhan after he became the special assistant to the prime minister. However, he didn’t want to make any remarks before learning whether Abdus Sobhan still is a special assistant to the prime minister or not.

Allocated in 2016

According to the documents, Abdus Sobhan was appointed the special assistant to the prime minister after the Awami League formed the government back in 2009. In an order of the public administration ministry on 6 April 2009, it was said that Abdus Sobhan has been appointed the special assistant to the prime minister on a contractual basis. He will enjoy the facilities and salary allowances of a secretary as the special assistant to the prime minister.

According to the documents and concerned sources, a government house (no 3 tenement) was allocated in the name of Abdus Sobhanin the capital’s Eskaton area on 19 April 2009.

Abdus Sobhan was reappointed the special secretary to the prime minister after the Awami League formed the government for the second term in 2014. He was still living in the house previously allocated for him up to that point.

An initiative was taken to construct three multi-storied buildings demolishing the house where Abdus Sobhan was staying in 2016. That time he was allotted house no. 42 at Minto Road. Since then he has been residing there.

Abdus Sobhan was elected a Member of Parliament (MP) from Madaripur-3 (Kalkini, Dasar and a section of Madaripur Sadar) constituency getting the nomination of the Awami League for the first time in 2018.

Wishing not to be named, several AL leaders confirmed to Prothom Alo that Abdus Sobhan was not reappointed as the special assistant to the prime minister when the party formed the government again in 2019.

Following the 12th parliamentary elections, five people were appointed as the special assistant to the prime minister on 28 January. They are Nilufer Ahmed, Ferdous Ahmed Khan and Shaheed Hossain (equivalent to a secretary) while Bilpab Barua and Mashiur Rahman alias Humayun (equivalent to a deputy secretary). Abdus Sobhan is not in the list.

A visit to the PMO website on Wednesday night also substantiated that the name of Abdus Sobhan was not in the list of the PM’s special assistants.

No letter regarding his appointment as the PM’s special assistant, except that of the 2018 one,  was also found at the concerned government departments of the government. Neither there could be found any government circular against Abdus Sobhan’s claim as an honorary special assistant of the PM.

In general, the government informs the people about the persons appointed as honorary special assistants equivalent to a minister or secretary through circulars. This was done in the case of Salman F Rahman, MP, on 18 January.

This correspondent went to the office of the cabinet secretary Mahbub Hossain Tuesday to know whether Abdus Sobhan is still a special assistant to the PM. The cabinet secretary, however, did not make any comment on the matter.

On contact, wishing not to be named, an official of the public administration ministry informed Prothom Alo that the ministry publishes the names of special assistants that the Prime Minister’s Office sends. There is no information regarding Abdus Sobhan in the concerned department of the ministry.

Earlier, an SMS was sent to Abdus Sobhan about this. But he did not respond.

‘This is illegal’

Former social welfare minister Nuruzzaman Ahmed also committed the same irregularity. He was allotted a 5,000 sq ft flat at the ministers’ area on becoming a cabinet member in 2019. Besides this, he occupied another government residence of equal size. He has been using the two residences along with his family members and relatives for the last five years.

The officials of the Directorate of Government Accommodation were informed of everything but they could not say anything about this to anyone.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, Ali Imam Majumder, former cabinet secretary said, “The bungalows at Minto Road are for cabinet members. It is illegal to reside in those without holding any government posts. For this both Abdus Sobhan and the public works ministry are responsible.”

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