Dhaka WASA MD should be held in check

If the feud between Dhaka WASA chairman and managing director (MD) was personal, we might have had nothing to say. But the rift between the two top officials of the organisation that is responsible to provide water service to nearly 20 million people in Dhaka and its adjacent areas, is totally unwarranted.

Any autonomous organisation runs according to the decisions of the board of directors. But Taqsem A Khan, who has been the managing director of Dhaka WASA for more than a decade, often overlooks the board's decisions and instructions. He works at his will. He even continued his duties as MD when he was on vacation abroad.

WASA Chairman Gholam Mostofa has highlighted various irregularities and mismanagement in a TV talk show recently. Three organisations of WASA officials and employees sent a letter to the ministry of local government complaining against the chairman. Presumably the WASA chairman wrote a counter letter, making allegations against the MD of the organisation to the ministry.

In the letter to the ministry, Gholam Mostafa wrote, The managing director of Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority (WASA), Taqsem A Khan has turned the organisation into a den of irregularities, waste and corruption and runs the WASA in an autocratic style as if it is his personal property.  Taqsem Khan has long been treating the WASA board with contempt and that has reached a height, the chairman alleged. He also accused the WASA MD of non-cooperation with the WASA board, misconduct, and violation of the WASA Act 1996.

The board chairman also alleged that anyone raising their voice against the managing director, was removed from their job. The MD sets aside millions of taka from the budget of Dhaka WASA in various ways and spends outside the budget allocation at will. Taqsem A Khan has set up the administration as per his will to display his power.

These are very serious allegations. When the government claims zero tolerance for corruption, how could the WASA MD operate so arbitrarily? The prime responsibility of Dhaka WASA is to provide clean water to the city dwellers. But the water that is supplied cannot be consumed without boiling. Consumers complain of unclean, foul-smelling water numerous times from different corners of the city. Dhaka WASA could not solve the water problem of the city dwellers despite taking up projects worth billions. The level of water is receding rapidly which is very alarming.

The MD has been angered over the interventions of the board recently. He instigated different organisaions of employees of WASA to send a letter to the ministry against the chairman to keep him under pressure.

The chairman sought the intervention of the ministry regarding the allegations against the MD and the investigation into the activities of Dhaka WASA. He said, it would not be necessary to increase water tariff if the irregularities and wastage was reduced.

What will the ministry do in this regard- will it accept the MD's high-handedness or take necessary steps to save the organisation? An organisation that runs with taxpayers' money cannot go on like this. We will appreciate a fair investigation by the ministry into the allegations brought against the MD of Dhaka WASA.