The Financial Express

Court says officials must take three ministries' nod for foreign trip

Court says officials must take three ministries' nod for foreign trip

The High Court (HC) in the full text of a verdict directed that the government officials, holding the ranks of additional secretary and below, must obtain prior permission from three ministries for all official trips outside the country.

The ministries are - the ministry concerned, the Ministry of Finance, and the Cabinet Division.

No government official would be allowed to go on any official visit unless prior permission is obtained from each of these ministries, also read the verdict.

This was necessary to prevent 'fanciful and purposeless' foreign trips by the government officials, and more importantly to prevent 'wastage of the taxpayers' money', said the HC.

Upon return, the officials should furnish a report to the Ministry of Finance and the Cabinet Division, giving details of their visit and the purpose for which it was undertaken together with an account of the expenses incurred in connection with the visit, it also read.

The HC bench of Justice Zubayer Rahman Chowdhury and Justice Kazi Zinat Hoque delivered the verdict after hearing a writ petition - filed by Omer Ali - challenging a memo, issued by the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Corporation (BIWTC).

The HC delivered the short verdict on December 17, 2020, while the full verdict was released on the Supreme Court website on Wednesday.

In the verdict the court also said it was on record that four government officials had travelled to the US for inspecting fog lights prior to their supply and installation on ferries.

The purpose of the trip was to carry out pre-shipment inspection regarding "performance of the goods, complying with their technical specification".

"For all practical purposes, it can be said that only one of the four team members had educational qualification and technical know-how to carry out the inspection. We fail to understand as to how non-technical persons could examine and evaluate suitability and function of fog lights." The four-member delegation had travelled to New York, and spent six days between March 28 and April 3 in 2015 for the purpose.

From the report submitted to the court it transpired that the physical inspection of the fog lights was carried out in a place "adjacent to the hotel" with the help of a portable generator.

It was apparent that of the six days spent in the US, only a few hours was spent for the purpose for which the officials had travelled to the country. The remaining period was spent in visiting places of interest, which had absolutely no relevance with the purpose of the visit.

The court said although the zamindars of the British era had to give up a substantial portion of land and authority to collect revenue with the abolition of the zamindary system in 1952, conduct of the government officials (at present) appeared to suggest the advent of "neo-zamindars". The government officials were reminded that they had been appointed in service to serve the people, and not to be served, and that too, at the taxpayers' expense. Each and every government official had a solemn duty and obligation to "serve the people".

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