The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has launched an investigation into the much-talked-about Zoom meeting scam by the Implementation, Monitoring and Evaluation Division (IMED) under the Planning Commission.
The national anti-corruption watchdog Monday issued a letter to IMED, asking for an account of costs it made in the form of honoraria, entertainment and stationery expenses during the virtual meetings on the Zoom app.
IMED officials allegedly filled their pockets with crores of taka through immoral waste of government funds in various sectors by holding Zoom meetings during the general holidays amid the Covid-19 pandemic in the country.
The Business Standard (TBS) broke the news with an investigative report titled "Zoom Meetings with Zooming Expenses" on July 11.
When asked, IMED Secretary Pradip Ranjan Chakraborty acknowledged receipt of the ACC's letter, said the ACC asked them to send all the information within 10 working days and added that they were preparing for this.
IMED officials said the ACC had also sent them, along with the letter, a copy of the TBS report and a CD of the report's video analysis released on TBS online under the banner of "TBS Insider."
The letter, undersigned by Director General AKM Sohel, mentioned that the ACC had taken note of the TBS report and video.
In the last fiscal year (2019-20), IMED performed impact assessments and intensive monitoring of 72 projects through outsourcing. For this purpose, Tk24 crore was allocated.
Even though over 50% of 504 workshops and technical and steering committee meetings were held on Zoom, IMED showed a Tk3.26 crore cost in honoraria for the participants, Tk1.38 crore in stationery items and Tk64.40 lakh in entertainment.
From the bulk allocation made in the supporting manpower sector for these projects, IMED officials allegedly distributed Tk54 lakh among themselves.
Additionally, they showed expenses for printing copies of meeting reports even though no printing was done.
In the wake of heavy criticism following the TBS report, Planning Minister MA Mannan sought an explanation over the issue from the then-IMED secretary Abul Mansur Md Faizullah.
Later, the then-IMED secretary recommended, in a report to the minister, to reduce projects for, and phases of, evaluation in order to check waste of the government money.
Later, IMED dropped the number of projects for evaluation through outsourcing to 32 from 72 in the current fiscal year.
In fiscal year 2018-19, 48 projects were evaluated through outsourcing, and Tk15.36 crore was allocated for it.
IMED officials are supposed to submit an implementation, monitoring and evaluation report after visiting the projects in person. They are supposed to visit three projects per month.
However, they are allegedly most interested in performing the task through outsourcing because there is a good opportunity to earn extra money from there. As a result, the number of projects for evaluation through outsourcing have been growing since the process began in 2010.