Allegations against BRTA: Denials don't end responsibilities

Nearly Tk 10.59 billion is collected as extortion annually from private buses and minibuses in the country, said Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB). Individuals or groups with party identity, traffic and highway police, Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) officials and employees, owners and labour organisations and representatives of municipalities or city corporations get a share of this "toll".

TIB released a research report titled ‘Integrity in the business of private bus transportation’ in a press conference at the TIB office in the capital’s Dhanmondi area Tuesday. It said the BRTA officials and employees collect Tk 9 billion annually from the bus and minibus owners.

Meanwhile, BRTA chairman Nur Mohammad Majumder has rejected the TIB report about taking bribes from the bus and minibus owners, terming it untrue. He claimed that this speculative  report has tarnished the image of BRTA and the government.

TIB sends its reports to relevant authorities. There has been no exception this time too. It sent the report to the ministry and BRTA so that they can take necessary action.

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In that case, the BRTA chairman should have analysed the whole report and inform the media about incomplete information and other faults, if there were any.

There is no need to conduct research to know about corruption in the transport sector. Almost all the people involved with the sector know this very well. A vicious circle is active in the sector from the top to bottom. Bus owners and drivers collect clearance certificates from the BRTA in exchange of money even if the transport is not fit to operate on the roads at all. Again, the people of these transports without any actual fitness are bound to pay bribes to the police if they hit the roads. The added cost of this bribe is ultimately collected from the passengers.

The TIB research revealed that most of the top leaderships of the owners’ organisations are involved with the politics of the ruling party. The 22 companies (13.1 per cent) that took part in the survey own 81.4 per cent of the buses. The ruling party (80 per cent) and other political parties (12 per cent) have direct involvement with the board of directors of those large bus companies (92 per cent).

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They held the sector hostage through practising unbridled authority over the owners and workers associations and creating obstacles to enact laws and regulations and their implementations.

Nearly 40.9 per cent of the transport workers, who took part in the study said one or several of their buses lack some sort of documents including registration. According to 24 per cent workers, some of their buses do not have fitness certificates while 22 per cent said they lack route permit. Some 11.9 per cent of bus owners said their companies have one or more drivers who either don’t have any licence or have an expired one.

TIB maintained global standards while preparing the report based on the statements of the victims and users. BRTA has to conduct another scientific study if it wants to reject any information from the TIB report. It would not do saying something flimsy like - this has tarnished the image of the organisation or the government.

Those who are allowing the corruption in the transport sector are actually tarnishing the image of the government. The BRTA chairman should have thanked TIB for highlighting the irregularities and weaknesses of the sector.

Since the culture of accountability has not grown in Bangladesh, we don’t expect that much from the BRTA. But the victims would get some sort of relief if the people involved with the transport sector including BRTA come to their senses following this report by TIB.