The Prothom Alo report on corruption at Titas Gas published last Thursday was just a tip of the iceberg regarding bribery and underhand deals in the government service sector. According to Prothom Alo investigations and inquiry reports of government agencies, a large number of Titas Gas officials, including the managing director, in league with certain dishonest industrials, have been making away with huge amounts of public funds.
Titas Gas is a company under Bangladesh Oil, Gas and Minerals Corporation (Petrobangla). Till 30 June 2017, it has 13,056 km of gas pipelines and 4619 industrial subscribers. However, the corrupt syndicate within the organisation targeted the Gazipur industrial zone, near Dhaka, for their bribes. Most of the industries with Titas Gas connections are located in Gazipur.
The persons involved in these scams used cryptic messages over the mobile phones to discuss their deals, with ‘kg’ denoting the volume of the bribe. The corrupt Titas officials in Gazipur, Savar, Bhaluka and Narayanganj used such codes among each other. A group of middlemen also emerged who would collect and deliver the bribes. Titas’ corruption has reached such heights that, at a meeting of Bangladesh Textile Mills Association (BTMA) on 23 April, anger and frustration were expressed concerning the corruption officials. Not all businessmen, after all, were involved in this corruption.
In a previous investigation of Petrobangla, it was revealed that a certain industrial unit had taken over Tk 75 crore (750 million) worth of gas, but has not paid the amount so far despite repeated reminders. With so many persons involved in the corruption, it is not easy to recover such dues.
After the Prothom Alo report was published, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) summoned eight Titas officials including its managing director. Petrobangla, however, has taken no action against these officers. The energy and mineral resources secretary has said, “The thieves in Titas are always stealing. But they haven’t been caught red-handed so we are unable to do anything.” Who is responsible for such failure? The ministry is aware of the corruption but does nothing! Prothom Alo’s report has caught the corrupt persons red-handed enough, now will action be taken against them?
It is not just Titas, but all sectors of the power and energy sector that are riddled with corruption. No one has been punished in the recent Barapukuria coal scandal. Corruption runs rife in all public sectors, whether it is power, water, health, education or other areas. Yet a mysterious silence prevails.
At a cabinet meeting it was decided on principal that no government official could be arrested before a charge sheet is produced. We demand that this decision be revoked. Such a decision or law simply serves as an indulgence to the corrupt government officials and negates the government declaration of zero tolerance towards corruption.
Legal action must immediately be taken against the corrupt Titas Gas officials.