Wednesday, 23 December 2009

No mechanism to curb misuse of govt vehiclesGovt spends Tk 35,000 a month on each car

No mechanism to curb misuse of govt vehicles
Govt spends Tk 35,000 a month on each car
Mustafizur Rahman

The government does not have any central mechanism to check misuse of its transport, especially the vehicles under various projects, allowing many officials and employees to avail themselves of transport facilities round the clock which they are not entitled to.

An officer of the rank of joint secretary and above belongs to the ‘privileged group in the civil service and is entitled to 24-hour car facilities’ but those below the rank of joint secretary are not entitled to such facilities, said an official at the establishment ministry.

‘Those who are entitled to 24-hour car facilities are enjoying it. So there is no question of misuse of the transport under the government pool….But there is no central mechanism to oversee the use of vehicles procured under different projects,’ transport commissioner of the directorate of government transport Md Ibadat Ali told New Age on Thursday.

He said the authorities concerned were supposed to hand over the vehicles to the transport pool on completion of the projects under various ministries.
‘It is the responsibility of the authorities concerned to look after the project vehicles until they are given to the transport pool on completion of the projects,’ Ibadat, who holds the rank of an additional secretary, said in reply to a question.

Nowadays most departments and directorates do not hand over the project cars – mostly sport utility vehicles – to the government transport pool on the pretext that the project duration could be extended or that new projects were being taken, said officials.

They alleged that the departments and directorates offered the SUVs procured
under different projects to the high-ups for their personal use as they wanted to make happy the high officials close to the ministers and secretaries.

‘The authorities under different ministries and divisions offer luxury vehicles to the high officials at the ministries for personal use…It is a common practice in the administration,’ an officer said. ‘Some senior officials in this way get one vehicle from the pool and another from a department and his family uses the cars.’

Many such officials below the rank of joint secretary are using cars from various projects under different ministries, said the official adding that private secretaries to ministers and secretaries holding either the rank of deputy secretary or senior assistant secretary usually enjoyed car facilities offered by the departments and directorates under the respective ministries.

‘Some ministries have their own arrangements for providing car facilities for officials like PS, APS and PRO at the offices of the ministers.’

All these luxury cars, originally procured for project works, do not have an emblem for identification while each car or jeep of the government transport pool has a flag stand for a distinction, said a deputy director of the directorate of government transport, adding that the government cars had number plates in red till 1990.

The colour was changed into black and white at the fag end of the HM Ershad’s government to avoid the public wrath when an anti-government movement was at its peak, said the official who has been serving the transport pool for 27 years.

He said the transport pool provides a car for each minister and one microbus for use by the officials of his office.

The government has to spend around Tk 35,000 against each car for driver, fuel charge and maintenance as each official is allocated 180 liters of fuel a month, said the official.

During 1997-2009, the transport pool received around 900 motor vehicles from various projects while it has a total of 602 cars and microbuses of its own in operation, according to official record.

Meanwhile, the government has taken an initiative to procure 40 cars and 30 microbuses for its transport pool.

The Daily New Age

syed saiful alam
Central Member of Save the Environment Movement

Public transport – the missing element in metropolitan life

Public transport – the missing element in metropolitan life

As a metropolis Dhaka has the dubious distinction of not having a coherent public transport or mass transit system. With a population of 12 million the city has to rely on every kind of ad hoc and improvised transportation. Examples of improvised modes of transport are the ‘tempo’ or ten-seat mechanised three wheeler, another variety named ‘human hauler, and on a fixed route in the old city even horse-drawn carriage is being used in a limited way to ferry passengers.

The rickshaw itself is a cumbersome vehicle, particularly unsuited for plying the long routes. And it is not uncommon to find three adults riding a rickshaw, adding ugliness to the existing chaos of the city traffic. There is no easy or express communication linking the new city with the river terminal in Sadarghat. Whatever public transport services exist they run north-south and there is no transport on east-west route after withdrawal of BRTC. There was a great possibility to develop suburban railway system for which the infrastructure had been bequeathed by the British government. Suburban railway could handle a major part of the city’s traffic load, as it does in Kolkata and Mumbai. But such projects, it appears, were farthest from the minds of the successive rulers. Suburban railway running at short intervals would of course necessitate laying of parallel tracks and construction of tunnels, and these were quite feasible if due attention were paid to them. If suburban railway could be developed then many people would prefer to keep their families in the suburban towns and the city’s population would be somewhat lessened. Instead, minibuses were brought into the streets to handle the main load of city traffic — an absurdity without parallel. In the mean time the BRTC which had all along been providing a modicum of transport service was allowed to decay. The BRTC’s double-decker buses had proved to be of great utilitarian value but these are no longer seen on the roads. Although new arterial roads were built like Bishwa Road and Rokeya Sarani, they failed to yield the desired benefit because overwhelmingly it was private cars and rickshaws that ran through them.

The present situation has not emerged in a day. Lack of pro-people commitment of the successive governments was amply reflected in the state of the city’s public transport. As buses have not been developed the people have become dependent on private cars and rickshaws. Hence the overcrowding and the tailback. In this context the call by experts and environmentalists for a pro-people communication system with emphasis on public transport, as reported in an agency report published in yesterday’s New Age is timely. These groups belonging to Paribesh Bachao Andolon are not the first to try to draw government’s attention to the need for a transport system that serves the common people. But the question is whether the government lulled by World Bank’s medication is wakeful at all.

The Daily New Age

Syed Saiful Alam
Central Member of Save the Environment Movement