Car purchase under development projects has emerged as one of the areas where irregularities are rampant, with the vehicles being used indiscriminately and improperly, officials said.
The implementing agencies neither return their cars to the government pool once projects are over, nor use those properly maintaining rules and regulations, they said.
Instead, they are on a buying spree utilising billions of public funds under different development projects.
Officials said state agencies in recent years have started to buy motor vehicles even under the technical assistance projects.
The FE, in an investigation, found that most of the vehicles, purchased under different projects, have not been handed over to the Department of Government Transport even after completion of the schemes .The latter is the state agency overseeing government vehicles under the ministry of public administration.
According to a 2006 notice by the public administration ministry, the project implementers are obliged to transfer their vehicles to the transport pool within 60 days of the completion of development projects.
Director of the transport agency Md Shahjahan Ali told the FE that they had no data of the total number of cars in the government system as most of the offices did not hand over vehicles after completion of the projects.
"We don't have any data of the total number of vehicles in the government pool. The ministries and agencies neither cooperate in the matter, nor return cars after completion of their projects," he said.
Mr Ali said they had only some 400 cars in the transport pool, which are mostly older.
"I have been working for nearly a year. The number of our vehicles remained the same over the year. We have got only 20-25 vehicles over the last one year from the project authorities," he told the FE.
The condition of most vehicles returned to the pool is so bad that those are difficult to drive on the road as those are of 8-9 years old, Mr Ali noted.
The Implementation Monitoring and Evaluation Division, assigned to find out the status of project vehicles, got no such data either.
The IMED officials said thousands of vehicles of the projects are being used by ministers, Members of Parliament (MPs),and bureaucrats.
The FE has found that some ministers, secretaries, and many additional and joint secretaries are using luxury cars purchased under development projects.
In most cases, it was also found that they were not using transport pool cars.
Almost all bureaucrats between the rank of deputy secretary and secretary are not using vehicles purchased under the government's interest-free loan scheme.
Instead, they are using the expensive cars of development projects.
Many secretaries, additional secretaries and joint secretaries are using even two cars in addition to the one bought with the government's car-loan facility.
Under the car-loan facility, an official between the ranks of deputy secretary and secretary can buy a car with an interest-free loan of Tk 3.0 million along with the monthly maintenance allowance of Tk 50,000.
The government car loan facility intended to check improper and illegal uses of public vehicles has backfired, according to Dr Mirza Azizul Islam, former finance and planning advisor.
He questioned why the ministries and the Planning Commission were giving go-ahead to the car purchase under development projects.
The FE learnt that no political government in recent decades tried to find out the status of the project vehicles.
Only the last caretaker government in 2007 tried to dig up the status of the vehicles of the government offices, discovering that between 2002 and 2006, seven out of eight motor vehicles used for various purposes were not returned to the government transport pool.
An IMED investigation reported to the then Chief Advisor's Office in August 2007 found that most of these vehicles were used defying the government rules.
It was found that some 1,441 motor vehicles out of 1,603 used during the period were not returned to the pool. Only 162 or 10 per cent of vehicles were given back to the public pool.
The report also found mismanagement and irregularities in the use of the vehicles. The maintenance and fuel costs and drivers' salary were borne either from the development projects or from the revenue budget.
The IMED investigation team recommended the finance ministry punish the chief accounts officers, who approved funds for these vehicles.
Few have doubt that the expenses for purchasing motor vehicles are not only pushing up the overall project cost, but also creating scope for wasting public and donors' money.
In 2014, the government approved a Tk 65.04 billion project for installing Akhaura-Laksham railway track, approving the procurement of 30 vehicles, including 10 pricier SUV jeeps.
In recent times, the Pyra Port Authority has proposed purchasing 20 motor vehicles under the multi-purpose terminal project.
It was found that the office premises and its adjacent roads of the Local Government Engineering Department headquarters, the BPDB headquarters, Biddyut Bhaban on Abdul Ghani road were full of cars. Officials said most of the cars have been purchased under different ongoing or completed projects.
A secretary-level official at the Planning Commission told this correspondent that they had no plan at this moment to study the status of the project vehicles.
"If we step in to find out the status of the vehicles, we will be in trouble. You know that many ministers, MPs and powerful bureaucrats are using the luxury cars of different projects. They are very powerful," he told the FE requesting anonymity.
Executive Director of the Transparency International, Bangladesh (TIB) Dr Iftekharuzzaman told the FE the abuse of project vehicles is nothing new. "What is striking is its depth and breadth (of the abuse) as there is no monitoring, scrutiny and accountability," he said.
The misuse of project vehicles has become the norm in implementation, he said.
Dr Iftekhar said: "Rules pertaining to the use of project vehicles must be enforced. Zero tolerance must be ensured against all forms of abuse and non-compliance."