A consumer-level survey by Transparency International Bangladesh reveals Dhaka Wasa to be a hub of corruption
Corruption runs rampant in Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority (Wasa), where a large number of consumers have complained of facing irregularities and being forced to pay bribes in order to get services.
The Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) surveyed 2,768 consumers of the state-run utility company, responsible for supplying water in the capital, to find that around 62% consumers have suffered irregularities, harassment and corruption.
The TIB revealed the information at a press conference held at its Midas Centre office in Dhaka on Wednesday. The research, titled “Dhaka Wasa: Challenges for Good Governance and Way Forward,” was conducted in 10 of Wasa’s 11 MODs zones in the city, carried out from April 2018 to March 2019.
The study, conducted through interviews of consumers, sample collection and observation, also tracked Dhaka Wasa’s performance and feedback between 2010 and 2018.
According to the survey findings, 86.2% of Dhaka Wasa customers had to pay bribe to Wasa officials directly, while 15.8% paid bribe to brokers in order to get service.
During the survey, 36.1% of survey seekers complained of having to pay bribe; 51.3% said they were victims of negligence; 20.7% suffered delay in service; 23% were subjected to absurd billing; and 3.8% were victims of meter tampering or other such corruption.
More than one-third of customers said they were dissatisfied with its overall services.
Only 6.8% survey takers said they were satisfied with the quality of supplied water, while only 2.2% said they were satisfied with the sewerage service.
Speaking at the press conference, TIB Executive Director Iftekharuzzaman said corruption takes place at all levels of Dhaka Wasa based on mutual understanding, which is why it is difficult to pinpoint who is exactly responsible for the irregularities.
“The Anti-Corruption Commission might be able to unearth the root of the rampant corruption,” he added.
He further said Dhaka Wasa did not have the capacity to meet the rising demand for water in Dhaka in a sustainable and environment-friendly manner.
Irregularities all around, complaints unheard
Consumers complained of facing a wide range of irregularities when availing Dhaka Wasa services.
The major complaints were of billing without meter reading, billing based on estimation, and meter readings by “assistants,” also known as “Dubli,” illegally recruited by revenue inspectors and pump operators. Rules state that revenue inspectors prepare bills after reading the meters.
Many survey takers said they did not find any coherence between their bills and what their meters showed.
The research also found that the customers are deeply unsatisfied with how Dhaka Wasa deals with their complaints – or does not.
Although the agency has a complaint redress centre in each MODs and revenue zone, as well as a hotline, there is a gap in its complaint redressing mechanism.
At least 61.5% of the customers who filed complaints received no solution, while 6.9% reported that the authority did not even receive their complaints, and 16.7% reported that Dhaka Wasa took a long time to resolve their complaints.
The irregularities are not limited to the customers only.
The study found that Dhaka Wasa employees faced corruption in recruitment, training, posting and transfer process.
The Dhaka Wasa authorities also bended rules to appoint their preferred individuals in important positions, many employees complained.
The government had issued a directive to formulate a policy to stop irregularities in the recruitment process in contractual positions in 2017, but it has yet to be implemented.
Some employees, meanwhile, have remained in the same position for years to be able to earn bribe, the study found. This happens mostly in the permission and renewal of deep tube-well installation.
The employees also complained of CBA members’ influence in the administrative work.
The TIB also made several recommendations to turn Dhaka Wasa into an effective and service-oriented organization — which include setting up a separate regulatory commission to determine the tariff of water and sewerage services; ensuring the formation of Wasa Board with members free from political influence; formulating policy to facilitate fair recruitment process of contractual positions; and introducing a standard assessment system in order to assess and enhance the quality of services.