Have you ever wondered how much a LED streetlight – that burns bright on the streets of Dhaka, Chittagong and other cities – costs?
The purchase of a LED bulb for an ongoing project under the Dhaka South City Corporation costs Tk33,603 on an average while for a project under the Chattogram City Corporation, the average cost of a bulb with the same capacity is estimated at Tk43,887.
But to one's utter surprise, the Chattogram Development Authority estimates the price of a 90-watt LED streetlight a whopping Tk171,725.
Thus, a massive discrepancy in purchasing prices of LED streetlights by different government organisations has come to the fore.
A 100 watt Chinese LED bulb sells at Tk3,000. To get one year replacement guarantee, Tk500 more will be added to it, said SM Kamal Hossain, manager of the Super Lightings at the Khandokar Electronics Market in the capital's Nababpur.
Nasir Uddin, senior executive at an outlet of Super Star Group, said their company sells a LED bulb of 60-100 watts at Tk8,000-Tk12,000.
Another local organisation Transtec sells a 60 watt LED bulb at Tk18,000 and a 120 watt bulb at Tk22,000, said Sirajul Islam, owner of Bithi Light House, a distributor at Kaptan Bazar Complex.
Experts said the LED bulb purchasing price proposals given by the government agencies are unusual and unbelievable.
They sent such proposals as part of their corruption attempt in the form of negligence, inefficiency and mutual collaboration, they added.
Under a project titled "Modernisation of City Street Light System at different areas under Chattogram City Corporation" which got approval at the beginning of the current fiscal year, the price of each LED bulb is estimated at Tk43,887, each pole at Tk30,110 and other costs at Tk52,653. Thus, after calculating all costs, a LED streetlight installation cost will stand at Tk1,26,650.
The Dhaka South City Corporation will spend a total of Tk64,855 for purchasing and installing a LED bulb under a project titled "Development of different infrastructures under the Dhaka South City Corporation (second revised)".
On the other hand, the price of each pole is estimated at Tk59,606 for a proposed CDA project titled "Construction of North-South Road-1". After calculating all costs, the expense for each LED bulb will stand at Tk235,820.
For each LED bulb installation, the CDA project wants to spend 3.64 times higher than the cost for installing each such post under the Dhaka South City Corporation's revised infrastructure improvement project and 1.86 times higher than the cost under the Chattogram City Corporation.
The Project Evaluation Committee under the Planning Commission sent back the CDA's proposal asking them to rationalise several of its components, including the outrageously priced LED bulbs.
Dr Iftekharuzzaman, executive director of the Transparency International of Bangladesh, said, "Differences in purchasing prices of the same product among the government agencies show corruption attempts to gobble up public money."
There can a slight difference in prices depending on quality. But such a massive difference is unrealistic and unbelievable, he added.
He urged to find out the reasons behind estimating such unrealistic prices.
From formulating an infrastructure development project to its implementation – the entire process has become a means of earning for a specific quarter.
Advocate Akhter Kabir Chowdhury, president of Nagarik Sachetan Committee, Chattogram unit, said for the imports of LED bulbs, spending several times more than the prices of local bulbs is illogical. Such price proposals cannot come if there is no corruption attempt.
What do government agencies say?
Uttam Kumar Roy, public relations officer at the Dhaka South City Corporation, said his organisation is installing LED bulbs of 40, 80, 120 and 150 watts as per necessity.
CCC mayor AJM Nasir Uddin said he was not aware well about the project. But the project has been undertaken after coordination with stakeholders concerned.
"I am not able to say exactly about the price. Different products are being collected from different companies. It may cause the differences in price", he added
"Equipment will be purchased to control the lights centrally. Moreover, there will be allocation for extra staff who will operate and look after the lights. Therefore, the amount seems big," said Jhulan Kumar Das, executive engineer of the Chattogram City Corporation.
Meantime, CDA Executive Engineer M Hasan claimed that cost for the 90-watt lights has been estimated after examining the market prices.
"It will cost more as the lights will have latest technological features," he added.
Hasan also said the lights will be purchased by an open tender process and there are no chances of corruption in such purchases.
He was asked when other organizations are installing lights with same features at a lower cost, then why the CDA would buy those at comparatively higher price.
"The Planning Commission can detect abnormal prices for any product or service. The proposal will be revised in line with the recommendation of the commission," said M Hasan.
"Prices depend on quality. But there is no scope to propose high cost for a product without explaining the quality features," said Shamima Nargis, member of the Planning Commission.
She said the proposal has been sent back to the CDA to revise the expenditures.