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Report: Tk36 crore embezzled in Rooppur housing project scam

  • Published at 07:23 pm July 15th, 2019
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File photo: Some of the multi-storey buildings at green city housing project under the Rooppur nuclear Power Plant project in Pabna Dhaka Tribune

Government investigations find involvement of PWD engineers

The two probe committees—formed over the alleged graft in the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant (RNPP) housing project— have found the evidence of Tk36.40 crore being misappropriated.

They also found involvement of 50 people, of whom eight are engineers of the Public Works Department (PWD)—including already-withdrawn Executive Engineer Md Masudul Alam—in the scam, and recommended punishing them.

A former chief engineer, who is on a one-year post-retirement leave (PRL), is also among the eight officials. 

The probe bodies -- one belonging to the PWD and the other to the Public Works Ministry -- mentioned their findings and placed several recommendations in their reports that they submitted to Attorney General's Office yesterday.

The reports said as per the agreement with the housing project authorities, the contractors were supposed to charge nearly Tk113.62 crore to supply furniture and electronic gadgets on several floors of four 20-storey buildings. 

But the furnishing articles and electronic gadgets supplied were worth around Tk77.22 crore-- around Tk36.4 crore less than the estimated sum of money.

The investigation committees also recommended proper measures to recover and deposit the “misappropriated” money to the national coffer.

Additional Secretary Md Maniruzzamanm—who headed the ministry's four-member probe team—said they submitted their report to the ministry on July 7.

Md Mainul Islam, additional chief engineer and head of the PWD's three-member probe body, also said their findings were placed at the ministry last week. 

The reports were submitted after the probe bodies were given extensions on their deadline twice. On June 30, they were given two weeks to submit their reports.  

The committees were formed on May 19, three days after a media outlet reported on cost-related anomalies in the housing project called Green City of the RNPP project in Iswardi upazila of Pabna.

Supreme Court lawyer Barrister Sayedul Haque Suman also filed a writ petition with the High Court on the same day, seeking a judicial inquiry into the allegations of irregularities in purchasing furniture and other items for the RNPP apartments.

On May 22, the PWD withdrew Masudul Alam, who was in charge of the housing project. He was later attached to the PWD headquarters in Dhaka.

Top PWD officials behind the scam

Other than Masudul, the remaining seven of the top eight PWD officials were involved with the tender floated for supplying the furnishing articles and electronic gadgets. They also evaluated the response from the interested contractors, finally awarding the tender to three contractors. 

Three of the officials are Md Najibor Rahman, additional chief engineer, and his deputy (currently retired) Md Shafiqur Rahman of Rajshahi PWD zone, and KM Zillur Rahman, superintendent engineer of Rajshahi PWD circle.

The rest are Md Tahazzud Hossain and Mostafa Kamal, deputy divisional engineers of Pabna PWD sub-division 1 and 2, respectively, Debashis Chandra Saha, superintending engineer of Pabna PWD circle, and former PWD chief engineer Mohammad Rafiqul Islam. 

The media report

According to a news report published in a Bangla daily stirring controversy and strong criticism especially on social media, a single pillow was bought for Tk5,957, and the cost to move that to the apartment was Tk760.

An electric stove reportedly cost Tk7,747 and the movers were paid Tk6,650 to move it upstairs from the bottom floor.

An electric kettle was bought at Tk5,313, and its moving cost was Tk2,945; and an electric iron bought at Tk4,154 was moved upstairs spending Tk2,945.

The High Court may hold a hearing on the reports on July 21.

In his reaction over the reports, petitioner Suman said they will analyze them. "If we find the reports having enough information and seem substantiated, we will have no objections on them.”

"But if our observations say the reports need more information, we will appeal (to the court) for a further inquiry,” he concluded.   

Who the contractors are

The three contractors are: Sazin Construction Ltd, Mazid Son's Construction Ltd and GKBPL PAEL HSL JV.

The furnishing articles and electronic goods supplied by Sazin Construction Ltd are below the standard and those shipped by Mazid Son's did not match the specification as mentioned in the deal. But the third contractor supplied better products, said the reports.  

The investigators went on mentioning that of the 50 accused, the top eight are PWD officials including Masudul. Of the eight PWD officials, four belong to Pabna, three to Rajshahi and one to Dhaka. 

They were tasked with constructing 21 multi-storey buildings for foreign officials and staff of the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant. A number of subcontractors are also working under them. 

The housing project started on July 19, 2016 and is supposed to be completed by mid-2022. At the end of last year, the contractors had completed four 20-storey buildings and are set to finish two others soon.

On July 2, the High Court issued a rule asking authorities concerned to answer within four weeks why they failed to ensure honesty and transparency in purchasing furniture and other household items for the officials and employees of the RNPP project.