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19th-Aug-2014

Corruption is everywhere, public works people can’t remain outside

By Editorial Desk

Monsoon in Bangladesh not only brings woes to the masses by washing away croplands and inundating households, but also makes fortunes for a section of people who are officially assigned to do repair or maintenance works of embankments, roads and highways. Every year millions of takas are spent to setup or to improve several embankments alongside rivers by piling up earth with sand sacks, or by placing concrete blocks to stop erosion. But there is no effect because of irregularities in the work and the use of substandard materials. To repair and re-enforce embankments, for river protection or locality protection, and major highways, the government has to allocate funds every year, from which a good portion of the allocated funds are gobbled by the unscrupulous people linked with influential persons. The vicious process of wasting money and engaging in corruption in the name of repair works is going on for decades. It seems to be the order of the day.
A vernacular daily reported that within two months of completion of the construction work of Gorai river embankment, flash-flood water flow washed away a segment of it recently. Local people said the contractors used substandard materials in the work and reinforced the earth by sand bags instead of concrete blocks that resulted in the collapse of the embankment. The Tk 13.46 crore worth embankment does not give any protection to the riverside people, but has made a fortune for the gluttonous people who were involved with the local unit of the ruling party or officials of the Water Development Board (WDB).  Local people who witnessed the work during construction alleged that low quality construction materials were used in it. They claimed that the earth work and the zeotex mattress were faulty, causing the damage within two months of its construction.
Despite mammoth funds for construction, re-enforcement and repair of flood protection embankments and dams, the reckless corruption spree allows strong waves and flash floods to wash everything away in every year. All efforts to protect homesteads, croplands, and household belongings including cattle-heads of the victims taken by the government, ADB, WB, and other development partners usually go in vain as corruption and irregularities take it all. So, the adverse affect of floods, including water-borne diseases, physical losses like - collapsing of homesteads, washing away of crops and cattle, inundation - scarcity of drinking water, foods, and medicine, all are not for natural causation, the dishonest people are also responsible.
The same happens in roads and highways. The employees and officials of Roads and Highways Department generally use substandard construction materials to repair Roads and Highways. These are done on an ad hoc patch-up basis. Dhaka-Chittagong Highway is, perhaps, a good example of it. The corruption and negligence of the authorities concerned result in dilapidated roads within a short time. Use of low quality construction materials causes several potholes and caves in the roads that results in accidents also. The death in road accidents are not only due to the accidents itself, surely the greedy and dishonest contractors are behind the accidents when they happen due to dilapidated roads.
The vicious cycle of corruption rules almost every sector of the government. Nobody feels accountable to anybody.  All the systems of monitoring, evaluation, punishment and reward are outdated here, allowing the greedy people to wield their whims to make money.