While the business of private bus owners is flourishing, the government transport agency Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation (BRTC) is counting losses in millions every year. BRTC conducts three main projects - purchase of buses, operation, and control. Corruption is rampant in every sector. Obaidul Quader, the minister of the concerned ministry, has also admitted at different times that there is corruption in BRTC. What we do not know is whether he has taken any effective steps to curb the corruption.
According to Prothom Alo on Tuesday, 255 buses were purchased from South Korea's Daewoo Company in 2011. The validity of these buses was 15 years, but BRTC has sold 5 buses as scrap within 10 years. The process of selling another 30 buses in the same manner is underway. The buses were purchased with a loan from the Korean Economic Development Co-operation Fund (EDCF). The price of each bus including tax was Tk 8 million to 9 million depending on the features. The terms of the EDCF loan were to buy buses from South Korea.
There was no opportunity to bargain in buying the bus through open competition. Other than South Korea, China, India and other countries have provided loans to the transport sector on condition of buying buses from their respective countries.
Buses bought from India and China also went out of order before the expiration date. In other words, the lending countries are selling their low quality buses to Bangladesh at higher prices.
The big problem is that, because of the negligence, irregularities and corruption of those who responsible for maintaining the buses, these vehicles become unfit for the road before the expiry date. There are serious allegations against the officials and employees of the bus depot for selling parts of new buses and installing old parts.
BRTC operates buses in two ways — its own management and rental system. The companies that rent BRTC buses are more eager to make profits with more trips than bother about the maintenance of the vehciles.
According to Prothom Alo, BRTC has invited tenders for the sale of 153 buses as scrap. The price of broken buses of Daewoo Company has been fixed at 200,000 to 300,000 taka. It is very unfortunate if a bus worth Tk 8 million to 9 million taka has to be sold as scrap at Tk 200,000 in less than 10 years. What is the remedy for this kind of waste?
Government policy makers claim that Bangladesh is at the peak of development. So why spend billions of dollars to buy a bus from abroad? Why haven't we been able to make the transport sector self-sufficient even after 50 years of independence? Like other agencies, BRTC government officials are as enthusiastic about shopping as they are reluctant to make the transport sector self-sufficient.
Recently, the Minister of Road Transport and Bridges said that the ACC would be able to investigate allegations of corruption in his ministry and that ministry officials would assist them. But in 2018, the agency recommended 21 points to stop corruption in the ministry. Why has this not been implemented in the last three years? Corruption in the BRTC and the ministry will never stop if the authorities remain all talk and no action.