Since the prime minister “praises” Wasa Managing Director Taqsem A Khan, the majority of its board members support extending his tenure.
Seven of the 10 members present at a hastily-arranged board meeting on Saturday agreed that 66-year-old Taqsem should be at the helm of Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority for three more years.
This would be Taqsem’s sixth term despite widespread allegations of failure to provide safe water and improve waterlogging.
He attended the meeting on Saturday, although he was not supposed to attend since the only agenda of the meeting was to recommend his reappointment.
Hasibur Rahman Manik, who is a board member as a representative from Dhaka South City Corporation, raised the question about Taqsem’s presence at the start of the online meeting.
The board meeting was conducted by Mostafa Jalal Mohiuddin, who represented doctors. He did not take Manik’s reservation into cognizance, said a board member preferring not to be named.
Mohiuddin conducted the meeting in the absence of a Wasa chairman. The government is yet to appoint a new chairman after the former chairman Prof Abdur Rouf died earlier this month.
According to the rules, one representative each from the two Dhaka city corporations, one representative each from the LGRD and finance ministries, one representative each from lawyers’ association, diploma engineers’ association, journalist community, engineers’ association of Bangladesh, Chartered Accountant association, Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industries and Bangladesh medical association form the board,
Although the Wasa board consists of representatives of different professional groups, nominations for those posts are mostly based on loyalty to the government, according to a source close to the ruling party.
Besides, Taqsem maintains a very good relationship with key policy makers of the government, the source said.
And it was reflected among the board members who voted for Taqsem and found many successes of Dhaka Wasa during his tenure.
One of their arguments was that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on different occasions expressed her satisfaction over the work of Wasa with Taqsem at its helm, said one of the board members, Shaban Mahmood, leader of a journalists’ union.
“There is no scarcity of water in Dhaka city and there are many other successes of Wasa, for which most of the board members proposed extending his term for three more years,” he told The Daily Star on Sunday.
“We have given approval to the person who was praised by the prime minister for his work. I believe the prime minister cannot make wrong decisions,” said the secretary general of a faction of Bangladesh Federal Union of Journalists.
The argument of the board members who voted for Taqsem was almost identical.
The prime minister recently praised Wasa services and there is no scarcity of water in the city, said another board member AKMA Hamid, president of central executive committee of Institute of Diploma Engineers.
“There are some big projects which are being implemented. The government high-ups also desire to complete those projects and that’s why we were in favour of his reappointment,” he told The Daily Star.
Taqsem has been appointed as the MD for five consecutive terms of varying lengths. His current term will expire on October 14.
The proposal to reappoint him will now be sent to the LGRD ministry and then to the prime minister for final approval, said an official of the Local Government Division.
According to Wasa Act-1996, the managing director is appointed by Wasa board which will have to be approved by the government. An MD is appointed for three years on a permanent basis and is eligible for reappointment.
WHO OPPOSED TAQSEM
Md Waliullah Sikder, former chairman of Engineer Institution of Bangladesh Dhaka; Selina Akhter, additional secretary of finance ministry and Hasibur Rahman Manik were the three members who voted against Taqsem.
Talking to the newspaper, Sikder said he told in the previous meeting that a probe committee should be formed by the board to investigate the allegations of corruption against Taqsem before discussing the proposal of his reappointment.
“I said that the probe body should include a specialist from Buet and a member of the judiciary. If Taqsem gets a clean sheet, his reappointment can be discussed,” he said.
“‘Otherwise, I am against it,’ I told the board meeting.”
Sikder, also a freedom fighter, raised questions about convening the meeting online suddenly although the previous board meeting decided that the next meeting would be held in presence of all members in person.
In Saturday’s meeting, Taqsem’s reappointment was the only agenda, he said, adding that there were no minutes of any previous meetings.
“Our prime minister has time and again spoken about zero tolerance against corruption. Why will we stand beside a controversial person?” he asked.
Another board member also raised questions of Taqsem’s presence in the meeting, Sikder said.
Councillor Manik said he refused the proposal as he found that the rules for appointment were not being followed.
The appointment will have to be made following due procedures like giving advertisements in the media, he said, “The appointment could be given if the person became eligible in due process. That’s the reason I did not support the proposal.”
Sources at Wasa said during Saturday’s meeting, a member asked how a person could remain in a post for 11 years despite widespread allegations.
Contacted, LGRD Minister Md Tazul Islam on Sunday said, “If the board makes its decision, then we cannot destroy the spirit of democracy by turning down its proposal.”
Tazul said if there are allegations of corruption against anybody, an independent committee can investigate the matter.
Dhaka Wasa is widely criticised for failing to provide safe water and solve waterlogging.
Allegations of widespread corruption and delays in project implementation are the other issues that keeps Wasa from providing the desired service to its clients. It was highlighted in a report of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) submitted to the LGRD ministry on July 18, 2019.
Wasa keeps extending deadlines and increasing the costs of its projects to create opportunities for corruption, said the ACC report.
Consumers’ Association of Bangladesh on Sunday in a statement urged the government not to reappoint the MDs of Wasa in Dhaka and Chattogram.