Two siblings Mizanur Rahman Sheikh and Aminur Rahman – one teaches in a Dakhil Madrasa and another in a government primary school in Satkhira's Tala upazila – have got their names enlisted for the government's cash assistance meant for the poor.
Surya Kumar Das, another well-off from the upazila, also has managed to get himself in the list of deserving people to avail Tk2500 in an Eid gift from the prime minister.
Both Daud Ali and his wife Nargis Begum have been included in the list although not more than one from a family is eligible for the cash aid. Besides, many people who are already enjoying allowances under social safety net programmes have also been added to the list.
This is how a list of beneficiaries has been prepared by the chairman of Kumira Union Parishad in the upazila.
A large number of solvent people across the country have been selected for the government cash relief intended for 50 lakh poor households who are hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.
When asked about anomalies in making the list of poor households, the Kumaria union chairman said many ineligible people were selected in the list mistakenly as they had to make it hurriedly. Later, they corrected the list.
Tala Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO) Iqbal Hossain told The Business Standard, "The union parishad submitted the list and the tag officer verified it. We corrected most of the mistakes. Maybe, some mistakes were not detected, so we failed to correct all."
"If they prepared it perfectly, it would be easy to help the deserving people. But they made it tough for us. I can assure that no anomalies and irregularities will be tolerated. If the chairman is found engaged in anomalies, he will also be punished," he added.
Since the inauguration of the disbursement of Tk1,250 crore in cash assistance on May 14 on May 14 through mobile financial services for 50 lakh poor families who have been severely impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, allegations of anomalies in making lists of beneficiaries have surfaced in from different parts of the country.
Using the same mobile numbers for many beneficiaries and including rich people and the people, who are already under social safety net, in the list are among irregularities that drew strong criticism from different quarters.
The prime minister's cash relief is intended for 50 lakh people from low-income group, including rickshaw- and van-pullers, day-labourers, dock [ferry] workers, shop employees, small traders, barbers, hawkers, and construction workers, agriculture workers, workers in private businesses, workers in poultry and dairy farms and transport workers who have become jobless due to the nationwide shutdown amid the pandemic.
The Premier has taken the initiative to support these people who are out of the social safety net.
The government decided to disburse Tk1,250 crore among 50 lakh families through mobile financial services such as bKash, Rocket, Nagad and SureCash. The disbursement was supposed to be down between May 14 and 18.
According to government sources, they have already stopped the payments after they came across massive anomalies in the lists. The disbursements will be done before Eid after making necessary corrections.
Allegations of anomalies in different parts of the country
There were allegations of irregularities in preparing the lists of poor people in different parts of the country.
Local government officials said they corrected reported anomalies and sent the lists to the ministry concerned.
In Sunamganj, the list was prepared considering voting politics. Besides, more than one from the same family and the people who are enjoying other facilities from the government were also included in the list.
Upon receiving allegations, Samir Biswash, upazila nirbahi officer of Bishwambarpur upazila, said they are looking into the allegations.
Allegations of massive irregularities have surfaced against Rafikul Islam Molai in Muriauk union of Lakhai upazila in Habiganj district. He used ten mobile numbers for 400 out of 1,176 people in the list. The list also included some affluent people and relatives of the chairman.
Sonchita Karmoker, assistant commissioner (Land) of Lakhai upazila, told The Business Standard that they were correcting the list after finding anomalies in it.
A cell phone number was used 43 times at Kalmabari union under Aditmari upazila in Lalmonirhat district. The number is of Samiruddin, a closed ally of Kalmabari Union Parishad Chairman Alal Uddin.
Aditmari UNO Mansur Uddin said he has received the allegation and asked the chairman to correct the list.
Md Rakib Hasan, a union parishad member of Khontakata union under Sarankhola upazila in Bagerhat, used his mobile number for 40 beneficiaries.
Sarankhola UNO Sardar Mostafa Shaheen told The Business Standard, "We have found that Union Parishad Member Md Rakib Hasan included his phone number for 40 beneficiaries. We sent a recommendation to the local government division to take action against him."
Sonargaon UNO Saidul Islam, said they found allegations of nepotism and irregularities in the list. Then, they cancelled it.
Dr Iftekharuzzaman, executive director of the Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB), sought exemplary punishment to those who are involved in irregularities.
"We are disappointed and worried about the corrupt attitude and activities of a group of unscrupulous people in the pro-people initiative taken by the government during such a serious crisis," he added.
Appreciating the initiative of the Prime Minister, he called upon the authorities to publish the list of the beneficiaries on website to make sure that the cash benefit goes to the deserving people.
What is the government doing?
According to the government sources, they found anomalies in the lists and corrected. According to them, there is no way to embezzle the cash.
Sources said during the data entry of the lists, there was an option to enter a phone number in the data sheet. Primarily, it was allowed to add any 11-digit numbers. But later, it was made mandatory to use the genuine mobile number of a beneficiary which must be the same as in the national ID.
Government sources said, during verification at the upazila level, they corrected most mistakes. But there were still a few errors. That is why at the final stage during the disbursements, some issues arose.
Shah Kamal, senior secretary to the disaster management and relief ministry, told The Business Standard that there is no way to disburse money more than once to the same number. Money disbursement to those controversial numbers have already been stopped.
He said the government has already ordered the field administration to correct the full data by Monday. Those who used numbers of others should use either their own ones or bank account numbers.
He said, "We will resume money disbursement only after confirming their national identity cards or bank accounts. The disbursement was supposed to be completed by May 18, now it may take a few more days as the list is being updated. But all will get money before Eid."