The High Court (HC) on Tuesday imposed a six-month prohibition on the distribution of any kind of incentives to officials and employees of Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority (Wasa).
It also issued a rule asking the authorities concerned to explain why the decision to set the water tariff without formulating a policy should not be declared illegal.
The bench of Justice Md Mozibur Rahman Miah and Justice Kazi Md Ejarul Haque Akondo gave the order and issued the ruling following a writ petition filed by the Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB).
The LGRD Secretary, the Wasa Board, Dhaka Wasa Chairman, Managing Director, & CEO, and the Comptroller and Auditor General, were asked to respond to the rule within four weeks.
Recently, Dhaka Wasa announced incentives for its officers and employees as a "Performance Award" for financial year 2020-21, amounting to three and a half basic salaries per person. This will cost Tk19 crore.
Last year too, Dhaka Wasa gave four basic salaries to all its officers and employees as a special reward.
Questions have been raised about the announcement of bonuses beyond regular salaries by Dhaka Wasa, which is subsidised by the government.
Barrister Jyotirmoy Barua, who moved for the petition in court, told the media, "The setting of a water tariff without framing any rule, and in violation of provisions in sections 21 & 22 of the Wasa Act 1996, is unlawful."
"Wasa cannot award performance bonuses to its officers and employees treating it as a business venture. For personal gain, the Dhaka Wasa boss introduced this corporate practice, which is a violation of the provisions of the Wasa Act," he said.
Where the performance of the authority remained unsatisfactory and their salary should have been reduced, the Wasa authority, showing profits, continued to skim honey from everywhere.
Moreover, there is no competitor in the service and hence the question of awarding a performance bonus to employees does not arise at all. This has contributed to the arbitrary increase of water tariffs.
On 17 July, Dhaka Wasa proposed the water tariff to be set at a maximum of Tk50 per unit, and a minimum of Tk12.50, while the cost of production was set at Tk25 per unit.
With this, water prices will increase 106% for upper middle-class neighbourhoods, 65% for the middle-class, 24% for the lower middle-class, and 19% for the commercial sector.