Do you know the Dhaka University vice-chancellor uses two chairs – one in the meeting room of his residence and another in the tea room – that cost Tk50,000 each?
The meeting room in the Dhaka University VC's residence is furnished with a grand table and 38 chairs set around it. The chairs were bought for Tk1,444,000, which means each chair cost Tk38,000. The table cost Tk325,000.
The list does not end here.
Seventeen double-seater sofas were purchased for the lounge at Tk1,054,000, each having cost Tk62,000.
There is another small meeting arrangement in the residence, which has four chairs bought at Tk40,000 each.
Thus, a total of Tk4,336,000 has been spent on furniture for the VC's residence, according to purchase documents.
Interestingly, none of the leading furniture-makers of the country has chairs as expensive as these in their showrooms in the capital.
Shaiful Islam, an executive of Akhtar Furniture, said the maximum price of a chair offered by them was Tk25,000.
Md Alamgir Hossain, executive manager of Partex Group, said none of their chair costs more than Tk30,000.
When asked about the expensive furniture in his residence, VC Prof Dr Md Akhtaruzzaman told The Business Standard, "I have never used costly things. I do not even know about this…I have no fascination for costly things.
"The furniture has been purchased through different committees. People on these committees can say about this."
The furniture was purchased after the VC residence had come under attack on the night of April 8, 2018 during the quota reform movement.
A 10-member committee led by Commerce Faculty Dean Prof Shibli Rubayat Ul Islam was tasked with determining the extent of the damage and renovating accordingly.
In the first meeting of the committee, Tk1.39 crore was estimated for the renovation, Tk43.36 lakh of which was allocated for purchasing furniture, according to purchase documents.
A firm named K Rehnuma Events Ltd was selected without any open tender for supplying all the furniture.
When contacted, Prof Shibli Rubayat told The Business Standard that though he was the convenor of that committee, the university's engineering department supervised the renovation work.
"This is not a big issue. Talking about this shows mean mentality. Those who are providing you with this information do not have good intention," he said.
It was learnt that Md Akram Hossain, executive engineer of the engineering department, oversees the supply and renovation of the furniture at the VC's bungalow.
About the expenditure, Akram said, "I cannot say anything without seeing the papers. The whole thing has been done with the approval of the committee convenor and the Business Faculty's dean.
"The expenditure depends on the quality of stuff."
Supplier denies charging so high
Rehuma Yasmin, managing director of the furniture supplying firm, said, "We did not buy the products; we made the chairs ourselves."
When asked about the price, she said, "I do not exactly know if the chairs were sold at those prices, but these chairs do not cost more than Tk28,000-29,000.
"The purchase committee may have added the remaining amounts as percentage."
Prof Shibli raised funds for renovation
The Dhaka University yearly budget has an allocation for the maintenance and renovation of all the residential buildings, including the dormitories and teachers' residences. The purchase of the furniture was done using that money.
Meanwhile, documents show that Prof Shibli collected Tk25,000 from each of the nine departments under the Commerce Faculty for "purchasing some essential items" for the VC residence after the attack.
Four days after the attack on the VC's bungalow, Prof Shibli held a meeting with the chairmen of the departments and decided to raise a fund by collecting the amount from each department.
"There was nothing left of the vice-chancellor's residence. We extended our helping hand instantly so that they can cook their food," Prof Shibli told The Business Standard.
The Business Standard contacted three former VCs of Dhaka University, asking them if such expensive furniture is required for the meeting room in the residence of the VC of a public university.
All of them said they were embarrassed by the revelation and did not want to be named.
They consider such expenditure abnormal for a public university that is run on public money.
One of the former VCs told The Business Standard, "I do not know how one can bring oneself to such low. It is embarrassing to comment on this issue.
"During my tenure, there was a lot of old furniture in the residence. I never thought of repairing or buying new ones. As a vice-chancellor it was my duty to concentrate on education and research."