The public expenditure on transport pool is still high even though the government provides motor vehicles to eligible public servants, revealed official figures.
Transport pool is the government department responsible for providing transport to government departments, agencies and the maintenance of public vehicles in Bangladesh. It is under the ministry of public administration. It has around 500 motorised vehicles, mostly of Nissan brand.
Under the car-loan facility, an officer can purchase a sedan car with an interest-free loan of Tk 3.0 million along with the monthly driving and maintenance costs of Tk 50,000.
The government provided Tk 3.7 billion in loans in the last fiscal year (FY) to buy 1,234 sedans when deputy secretaries were brought under the facility for the first time.
The idea was to bring down the government's transport bill as those who will enjoy the privilege will no longer use the vehicles from the pool.
But that did not happen. Indeed, the government's transport bill from Tk 1.26 billion in FY 2015-16, shot up to Tk 1.46 billion in FY 2016-17 on transport pool.
The amount bloated to Tk 1.62 billion in FY 2017-18, according to budget documents.
This figure excludes fresh purchase of vehicles as the procurement by the pool varies widely year on year.
What is more, such eligible officers up to deputy secretary are also using their respective divisions' microbus, thus raising their annual budget each year.
Each ministry/division has their own microbuses under the 'table of organisation and equipment' and they carry officers to and from secretariat on working days where the pool provides the driving facility.
The expenditure of the divisions in terms of fuel consumption and repair has also been rising over the years for the officers' pick -and - drop facility.
This correspondent picked two ministries as specimen (chosen randomly) on how their expenditure has been increasing on fuel and maintenance purposes.
Internal resources division had a budget of Tk 713 million for fuel and maintenance and it shot up by Tk 80 million to Tk 793 million this fiscal.
Similarly, the Public Administration ministry had an allocation of Tk 804 million in FY 2017-18 and it soared to Tk 952 million this fiscal.
People familiar with the matter said the pool spending is increasing, in terms of hike in salaries and other fringe benefits of a large number of drivers work for ministries/divisions.
On the other hand, a section of the officers who took the pool's transport earlier did not return the same later by abusing the administrative power.
As per the revised guideline issued in August 2017, an entitled officer gives an undertaking that s/he will no more use government vehicles after purchasing a car.
Md Shajahan Ali, director (road) at the department of government transport, said the budget of the department was supposed to come down for the car loan facility.
Usually, the entitled officers return vehicles to the pool after buying their personal cars, he told the FE.
Mr Ali, however, said there might be some "exceptions".
Md Shariful Islam, who manages car loan at the public administration ministry, said he is not authorised to speak why the transport pool costs are still going up.
But Abul Khair Mollick, an assistant director who is serving with the pool, said the expenditure is 'falling' after the introduction of car loan scheme.
"We've reduced the procurement of vehicles for the HQ," he continued.
In the meantime, the entitled officers, in many cases, breach the guideline for insurance and sharing ride with 'Uber' and others.
The officers allegedly get 'first-party insurance' of their cars in the first year, but later they do 'third-party insurance' which requires a small amount of money.
Non-life insurers told the FE public servants usually take first-party insurance in the first year.
"But, in most cases, they prefer third-party insurance in subsequent years," Md Imam Shaheen, managing director and CEO at Asia Insurance Company, a privately-owned general insurer, said.
Last week, a number of entitled officers at the secretariat admitted that their vehicles are mostly used by family members, especially for carrying kids to and from schools.
"I find my car free up to 8:00 am. Then it is used by family members," said a deputy secretary at the finance division.
"I use the microbus of our ministry while travelling to and from my office," he said.
According to the guideline, an eligible officer will own a sedan just after paying all the installments off.
The lifetime of a vehicle has been fixed at eight years calculated on the basis of 10 per cent deprecation a year.
Md Shariful Islam, also a deputy secretary, said nobody or no wing is supervising or monitoring car facility under his ministry of public administration.
"The same applies to other ministries," he noted.
Governance experts highlighted the need for good governance in the public sector.
Disciplinary action should immediately be taken against those who have been using both own cars and the pool's transport, they said.
Ali Imam Majumder, a former cabinet secretary, said this is completely illegal and thus disciplinary action should be taken.
"The secretary or other high officials of the division should monitor such malpractices regularly," he argued.
"This is very unfortunate for us," the former senior bureaucrat told the FE.
Badiul Alam Majumdar, general secretary of Sujon, a non-governmental organisation, said good governance should be established, otherwise the misuse of power would continue.
"This is completely abuse of public funds and there must be transparency and accountability in using the money."
Bangladesh has 1,834 deputy secretaries, 727 joint secretaries, 510 additional secretaries and 69 secretaries at the end of May 23, 2019.
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