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Power of the POs: From Suranjit to Nahid

  • Published at 01:24 pm January 23rd, 2018
  • Last updated at 12:17 am January 24th, 2018
Power of the POs: From Suranjit to Nahid
Reports of government officials abusing power to line their pockets with money have yet again hit the spotlight. Following the bribery scandal of the personal officer (PO) of the then railway minister Suranjit Sengupta in 2012, Education Minister Nurul Islam Nahid’s PO has also found himself at the centre of corruption allegations involving crores of Taka. Law enforcers arrested Nahid’s PO Motaleb Hossain and Education Ministry staff Nasir Uddin on January 21. Suranjit had announced that he would step down as the railway minister eight days after his assistant personal secretary (APS) was charged with involvement in irregularities. But, the education minister has stated that he was not informed about the reported corruption committed by these two ministry officials. A PO’s job is to keep tab of and manage day-to-day activity of the minister. Responding to a query, a joint secretary level official said: “They (PAs and POs) accept files, complaints and applications on behalf of the minister. They present these files to minister for review and action and then forward them to the next department concerned. “They also handle the minister’s telecommunications, organize meetings and greet the guests.” On April 9, 2012, the then railway minister’s APS Omar Faruq Talukder, Bangladesh Railway’s former east zone general manager Yusuf Ali Mridha and railway commandant of the Dhaka division Enamul Haque were apprehended with a huge sum of money at the Pilkhana’s main entrance. The trio claimed that they were taking the money to the home of Suranjit. After being mired in a number of corruption allegations, Suranjit declared that he would quit. In 2015, Md Sohidul Islam, personal officer of the then information minister Abul Kalam Azad, faced allegations of being involved in a number of irregularities, such as illegal remittance. Despite the tangible evidence, the ministry concerned failed to take any action against Sohidul. In another incident, an official of the Receive and Dispatch Section of the Education Ministry, MD Nasiruddin was arrested from Gulshan with Tk130,000. Education Minister’s PO Motaleb Hossain was arrested based on information received by interrogating Nasiruddin, said sources. Addressing the matter on January 21, the education minister told the media: “We have no reports suggesting that these two officials were involved in irregularities.”
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Initial investigation revealed that Motaleb is building a house with an estimated cost of Tk4.5 crore at Dhaka’s Mohammadpur. The PO’s salary is only Tk28,100, but he takes home only Tk13,088 because he pays loan installments every month. On December 25, 2017, Education Minister Nahid suffered a hail of criticism after urging officials concerned to keep their practice of receiving bribery at a tolerable level. He was speaking at a Directorate of Inspection and Audit (DIA) programme in Dhaka. Referring to the exchange of bribery everywhere, the minister said: “It is not only the officials who are thieves, but also the ministers. I am a thief too. This is the way of the world. But it has to be changed.” Protesting Nahid’s remark, TIB Executive Director Dr Iftekharuzzaman said: “The statement of the education minister is as worrying for the nation as much as it reflects his dilemma and despair. “If he really had the guts to fight against corruption, he would not have needed to give such a prescription for the proliferation of corruption, exposing such helplessness.” The TIB spokesperson also noted that way the education minister attempted to label all government officers and ministers was unrealistic and unacceptable. “By publicly calling himself and his cabinet colleagues thieves, he has given rise to confusion among the people about the government.” The education minister later claimed that he had been misquoted. Speaking to the correspondent, Dr Iftekharuzzaman said: “As the suspect (Motaleb) is a government official, the amount of wealth he has accumulated must be thoroughly investigated.” Adding that the ministry concerned should conduct a probe itself, he said: “A corrupt official never works alone. We must track down his cohorts.” Rasheda K Chowdhury, executive director of Campaign for Popular Education and also a former adviser to the caretaker government, commented: “TIB has released numerous reports highlighting corruption in different sectors of the country, and the Education Ministry is a part of it. “I firmly believe that vigilance against corruption should be increased in the ministries.”

This article was first published on banglatribune.com