Bangladesh

Wasa MD for 11 years and counting

Ignoring widespread criticism, Dhaka Wasa board yesterday approved a proposal for extending the tenure of their controversial Managing Director Taqsem A Khan by three more years.

The Water Supply and Sewerage Authority (Wasa) board made the decision in its 97th special meeting held online.

The special meeting's topic of discussion was to send a proposal to the Local Government Division regarding the appointment of Taqsem as Wasa MD for the next three years, according to a notice issued by Wasa on Thursday.

Taqsem has been the MD for the last 11 years. He was appointed for five consecutive terms of varying lengths. His current term expires on October 14.

When he took charge of Dhaka Wasa in 2009, most parts of the capital got flooded after heavy rains. The situation remains the same to this day.

Residents still complain of getting dirty and foul-smelling water from Wasa. There is no proper sewer system in about 80 percent areas of the capital. The situation was the same 11 years ago.

A Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) report published on April 17, 2019, said 91 percent of Wasa subscribers had to boil the water to make it drinkable and, in the process, burned gas worth Tk 332 crore a year.

The TIB findings also showed that nearly 45 percent of the subscribers got inadequate amounts of water, while about 35 percent complained of being supplied poor-quality water throughout the year.

Wasa MD Taqsem said the TIB report was 'unfounded'.

Environmentalists say that Wasa has no success in improving drainage and waterlogging and Taqsem has not done anything to deserve to be in the position for three more years.

TIB yesterday demanded appointment of a qualified and experienced new managing director at Dhaka Wasa before the tenure of the current MD expires in October.

In a statement, the anti-graft watchdog also demanded a complete and impartial audit of the questionable appointment and repeated re-appointment of the MD.

It also demanded the Dhaka Wasa Board be disbanded due to its inability to prevent corruption through good governance, transparency and accountability.

TIB strongly condemned the proposal to re-appoint the current managing director, terming the process unethical and unlawful.

TIB Executive Director Dr Iftekharuzzaman said it is certain that the Dhaka Wasa Board is either not fulfilling its responsibilities properly, or it is not being allowed to do so.

TIB said it was clear from the agenda of the meeting that all measures were taken to keep the power of the same person unaffected in the top management while ignoring the rules and regulations.

The questionable appointment and continued re-appointment despite serious allegations of failure and irregularities has turned the state's commitment to good governance in the country into a farce, TIB said.

The statement also said there was no mention whether any application for the post was invited as per the rules. It is not known whether anyone applied for the post, if yes, why they were not considered, or why the current managing director was deemed the only suitable candidate, and why it was necessary to renew the term of the same person in defiance of the rules.

Allegations of unprecedented irregularities and corruption in the small and large projects of Wasa were raised in TIB's 2019 research.

According to media reports and other reliable sources, each of his appointments as MD took place through violation of laws and rules.

Taqsem was widely criticised last year for claiming that Wasa water was 100 percent safe.

He also told reporters on various occasions that water-related issues can be attributed to technical problems, and often denied reports of corruption and mismanagement within Wasa.

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