The Financial Express

HC directs in a full verdict

Govt officials must take permission from three ministries for foreign trips

| Updated: December 02, 2021 08:38:47

File photo, (Collected) File photo, (Collected)

The High Court in a full text of a verdict directed that the government officials holding the rank of Additional Secretary and below must obtain prior permission from three ministries including the concerned ministry for all official trips outside Bangladesh.

The two other ministries are-- Ministry of Finance and the Cabinet Division.

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

In our considered view, this is necessary to prevent “fanciful and purposeless” foreign trips by government officials and more importantly, to prevent wastage of the taxpayers’ money, said the court.

Upon their return, they 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 such visit, it also read.

The High Court 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 Wednesday on the Supreme Court website.

In the verdict, the court also said it is on record that four government officials had travelled to the USA for the purpose of inspecting the fog lights prior to their supply and installation onboard the ferries. The purpose of the trip was to carry out a pre-shipment inspection regarding “performance of the goods, complying with their technical specification”.

“For all practical purposes, it can be said that only one out of the four-member team had the educational qualification and the technical know-how to carry out the inspection in question. We fail to understand as to how non-technical persons could examine and evaluate the suitability and function of the fog lights.”

The four-member delegation had travelled to New York, USA and spent six days between March 28 in 2015 and April 3 in 2015 for the purpose.

From the report submitted to the court, it transpires that the physical inspection of the fog lights was carried out at a place “adjacent to the hotel” with the help of a portable generator. It further appears from the report that the team also visited the Statue of Liberty, Liberty Island, Ellis Island and the Memorial Museum, crossing the Hudson River on a tourist's vessel.

It is, therefore, apparent that out of the six days spent in the USA, only a few hours, not even half a day, was spent for the purpose for which the officials had travelled to the USA, while the remaining period was spent in visiting places of interest, which had absolutely no nexus or 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 along with the authority to collect revenue with the abolition of the Zamindari system way back in 1952, the conduct of Government officials appears to suggest the advent of “neo-Zamindars”.

The Government officials are reminded, in no uncertain terms, that they have been appointed in Government service to serve the people, and not to be served and that too, at the taxpayers’ expense. Each and every Government official has a solemn duty and obligation to “serve the people”.

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