Corruption in government procurement has taken a dreadful turn. After Tk 6,000 pillows, Tk 2.7 million curtains, and medical books at 16 times extra price, this time there are allegation of huge embezzlement in a government procurement for a Tk 40 billion project funded by the World Bank. However, there have been allegations of corruption in purchasing emergency medical supplies including masks, PPE and ventilators during the pandemic.
All these indicates that the public administration is being engulfed by corruption. What is the way to save it? The government had enacted the Public Procurement Act and initiated e-tendering to curb corruption in government procurement. The people were assured that the measures would improve the deteriorating situation in government procurement, but now it seems huge corruption in government procurement is becoming a regular practice.
After the Rooppur nuclear power plant pillow incident was unveiled, there was an uproar in the country including the administration. People had thought showing the cost of a pillow at Tk 6,000 on paper must be an isolated incident. However, many were alarmed, too. Because, it is reasonable to assume that very little of the huge corruption taking place in the public administration come to the media. The safeguards at various levels of the executive to prevent and curb corruption, seem almost ineffective.
A quarter of government officials and employees are becoming so reckless to commit irregularities that they do not have the minimum fear. They are carrying out these leaving evidence. Because, they know it’s not easy at all and rather impossible, too, to punish them effectively under the conventional system. Due to this, such misuse or embezzlement is increasing not only in government procurement but also where there are government fund or resources.
Corruption was there before, but it is going out of bounds now. The mentality of looting is so reckless that one can show the price of a Tk 45,000 chair at Tk 600,000 in a cattle development project. The price of 1,000 kits for cow pregnancy test, which is roughly Tk 5,000, has been shown at 500 times higher. The proposal to purchase at this rate has been approved too and the buying process has already started. How is such a proposal approved?
This incredible situation makes people frustratingly question where are we headed to.
This frustration is reasonable. Because, the sensitivity of the executive to take effective action against the accused is seriously questioned. The High Court is being compelled to intervene to take action against the suspects, but even so, it’s not being possible to bring the culprits to justice. Former public works minister and the incumbent fisheries and livestock minister, after reviewing two high profile committee reports over the pillow incident, had said 34 persons were involved in the incident. So far, no one has been punished over the incident.
It can be apprehended that by the time the influential pillow incident culprits receive exemplary punishment from the appellate division such corruption will become a normal occurrence.
Therefore, the culprits must be punished immediately.