So, corruption triumphs once again. The recent report of the Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) on the country's graft situation has made it amply clear that some state agencies, notable only for their corrupt practices, are not going to backtrack from the triumphant race. Some agencies are as though determined to retain their top positions. The law enforcing agencies, the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority and the department of Passport and Immigration are the ones who predominantly run the show-- interchanging positions. This year, according to TIB findings, it is the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) that has emerged as the number one corrupt agency in the country.
The reason why this year the BRTA's name at the top of the corruption chart has caused a bit of a stir refers to the unruliness on the streets of the capital and elsewhere that prompted school children to take charge of the street traffic in an unprecedented display of the authority's failure to address the chaotic situation. However surprising it seemed, the school kids did succeed to present before the nation the appalling state of the regulatory body, BRTA and traffic management in the country. Clear enough, it is not just the negligence of the BRTA, but its thoroughly orchestrated corrupt and crooked practices that led things go down to rock bottom. No wonder, its accomplishments have fetched it the top position in the TIB report!
The TIB's report was released at a roundtable discussion in the capital the other day. Its findings are precise in that the report by attempting to dig into the BRTA's wicked schemes has unearthed specific devices it resorts to in materialising its bribery network. The study shows that a service recipient has to pay up to Tk 50,000 as bribe during registration depending upon the type and value of the vehicle. In Dhaka Metropolitan area, a bus owner has to pay Tk 10,000 to Tk 300,000 in bribe as entry fee for each bus. To get route permit and transfer of vehicle ownership documents, vehicle owners have to pay bribe up to Tk 20,000 to BRTA personnel and brokers. The study reveals that about 61 per cent drivers get licence without driving test. Bribes paid for driving licence vary from Tk 1,000 to Tk 7,000 depending on the type of the licence. The study also shows that 54 per cent drivers are running vehicles with expired licences.
The report says the BRTA has no effective role in controlling motor vehicles. Vehicle operators are extracting up to 75 per cent extra fare from passengers in Dhaka Metropolitan area. There is no effective audit to check out how subscriptions collected by motor trade unions are spent. Through controlling terminals and routes, illegal subscriptions are collected at entry points of district and divisional towns. The amount varies between Tk 10 to Tk100 from five to twenty points of each trip of a commercial vehicle. Besides, depending on the type of the vehicle, an owner has to pay up to Tk 2,000 each month to transport owners' associations. For setting up counters in short and long routes of commercial vehicles, Tk 10,000 to Tk 50,000 is to be paid to transport owners' associations.
In the name of 'beat', an amount up to Tk 3,000 is collected by a section of traffic police from commercial vehicles and long route covered van owners. All luxury coaches departing from Dhaka has to pay bribe between Tk 300 to Tk 400 to traffic police for each trip.
Needless to say, the practice has grown over a long period of time. The key operators for materialising the BRTA's bribery culture are indeed brokers --believed to be more than a thousand who throng the BRTA office complex since early morning to offer their 'help' to clients. Besides, there are others who visit potential clients at their homes and workplaces to get things done for them without any hassle. For fitness certification, many vehicle owners, especially private car owners, rely on them as they normally do the job in a day without even taking the vehicles for inspection.
In this connection, it needs to be noted that a lot of the corrupt practices has grown, as though, demand-driven. Avoiding hassles with BRTA staff is one reason, but more importantly, dealing with brokers is convenient for both clients and the BRTA people.
Now, given the state of things it seems rather difficult to come up with a mechanism to ensure delivery of services by the state entity. The TIB has suggested some recommendations which include forming an impartial and high-powered probe body for identifying the BRTA's challenges; giving the authority to it to determine the number and types of vehicles for registration in metropolitan cities; making the Motor Vehicle Ordinance more stringent; adopting a code of ethics for the BRTA staff to ensure accountability and transparency; strengthening the BRTA for effective coordination among all stakeholders working in the transport sector; modernising the monitoring and evaluation unit and Information Management Structure; introducing one-stop and online-based services, and digital driving licence. These look fine on paper, but getting to the task will require, more than anything, unflinching steps on the part of the government.
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