Tk 3.32b embezzled: How could Dhaka WASA avoid liability

Concrete evidence has been found against 46 officials and employees of Dhaka WASA Employees Multipurpose Cooperative Society, confirming that they have embezzled Tk 3.32 billion (332 crore). This information came up in an investigation report of the cooperatives department.

The officials misappropriated this money while holding different posts of the cooperative society. Of them, former president of Dhaka WASA CBA, late Hafiz Uddin alone embezzled over Tk 488 million (48.83 crore).

Prothom Alo reported that the mentioned money came from the commission on customer’s bill, a source of income for Dhaka WASA employees multipurpose cooperative society. To increase the revenue collection of Dhaka WASA contractors were brought in for the work of collecting water bills back in 1996.

Under the ‘Programme for Performance Improvement (PPI)’ initiative, Dhaka WASA employees’ multipurpose cooperative society started working as the contractor. In exchange, they used to get 10 per cent of the total bill as commission.

Excluding the expenses, the remaining amount received as commission from Dhaka WASA were supposed to benefit the general members of the society. But the investigation revealed that those 46 officials of the managing committee kept the money to themselves, bereaving the members.

The report, prepared by the investigation committee led by deputy registrar of the cooperatives department Md Mizanur Rahman, has been submitted to the local government ministry and the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC).

It stated that it’s clear from the activities of the managing committee that their sole objective was to just embezzle money. Though the bank account had been opened in the name of Dhaka WASA employees’ cooperative society, it’s operated by the PPI (a project taken under the cooperative society) managing committee chairman.

According to the investigation report, some of those with evidence of embezzlement against them have already died while some others have gone into retirement. But, the rest are still working at WASA.

Those who have retired and those still working at WASA should be brought to book. Though legal action cannot be taken against the deceased, the embezzled money can be collected from their descendants.

WASA authorities cannot avoid the liabilities of this embezzlement either. Officers and employees of the WASA receive salary and allowances from the state treasury for performing their duties.

Why should the salaried employees be given a commission of 10 per cent for collecting bills from the customers? That means, when the officials of the cooperative society collected Tk 100 in bills from the customers, only Tk 90 was deposited into the state treasury while the rest went straight to the society’s fund.

Whether the WASA authorities could allow extra facilities for the salaried officers and employees, is an ethical question. But that facility too was misused by the officials instead of using it for the welfare of the general members of the society.

Strict measures should be taken against people involved in this sort of embezzlement or fraud. Otherwise, this kind of example could spread like viral diseases to the government offices as well.

By relieving the employees cooperative society of its duty of collecting bills in 2018, WASA authorities proved that their previous decision was wrong. Why should the public pay the price for the wrong decision?

Let everyone involved with the embezzlement be brought to justice as well as arrangements be made to recover the embezzled money.

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