The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) under the finance ministry has raised audit objections regarding the expenditure of Tk 33.5 million by the Election Commission to pay for the training of government and non-government officials ahead of the 11th national election and fifth upazila parishad election. They said the posts such as course adviser and special speaker were created by the EC itself and not approved by CAG. The allowance has caused financial loss to the state. The audit department has sought an explanation from the EC and asked for the funds to be returned if it could not respond.

Citing the audit objection, Prothom Alo reported on Tuesday that a financial loss of Tk 1.9 million was incurred due to the payment of allowance by creating posts outside the approved posts. Another objection said that the then EC secretary Helaluddin Ahmed, additional secretary Mokhlesur Rahman and the then director general of the Electoral Training Institute Mostafa Farooq had taken Tk 1.2 million as allowance as 'special speakers’ . Apart from this, Tk 1.4 million has been spent due as additional honorarium for the post of course director.

The list of special speakers included the chief election commissioner, four election commissioners, the then secretary of the EC, additional secretaries and joint secretaries. Senior officials including the then EC deputy secretary and the secretary, deputy commissioners of all districts and superintendents of police and returning officers of the respective elections worked as supervising trainers. There were also posts like course monitoring officer, assistant course coordinator, regional course coordinator, additional regional course coordinator, district course coordinator and additional district course coordinator.

The government's own audit department has objected to these expenditures. What will the EC officials say now?

Helaluddin Ahmed, a course adviser for training in the 11th parliamentary elections and the then EC secretary, justified his position saying the EC could approve the budget. The expenditure incurred for electoral training is approved by the EC. On the other hand, former auditor general and regulator M Hafizuddin Khan said that independent institutions cannot pay salaries and allowances themselves. In this case, the approval of the finance ministry is required.

We find the statement of the former secretary of the EC as unreasonable. The independent election commission secretariat was not set up to create special speaker posts. This was done so that the government could not interfere in the work of this constitutional body. On 19 August 2019, they protested when a report was published in Prothom Alo about the wasteful expenditure by the Election Commission in the name of 'special speaker'. On 14 December last year, 42 prominent citizens wrote to the president, urging him to form a Supreme Judicial Council to look into serious irregularities and misconduct by the EC in financial and election matters. In response, the CEC claimed that the allegations were baseless. Now the government's own audit department has objected to these expenditures. What will the EC officials say now?