Pabna Local Government Engineering Department (LGED) Executive Engineer AKM Badshah Mia has allegedly extorted Tk26 lakh in the name of setting up a relief fund for unemployed workers during the ongoing general holidays.
It has been alleged the LGED engineer in connivance with a syndicate of influential contractors had forced the general contractors to donate money to the fund.
Denying his involvement with the fund Bashsh Mia, however, claimed the contractors had taken the initiative by themselves.
Seeking anonymity, many contractors said Badshah Mia called them to his office on Sunday. He expressed his willingness to set up a relief fund for workers involved with LGED projects, who are affected by the coronavirus shutdown, and asked the contractors to donate to the fund.
Badshsh Mia did not specify an amount but urged everyone to donate according to their means and to do that soon, they said.
The contractors claimed around Tk26 lakh had been donated to the fund thus far.
"We don't understand why so much money was needed to distribute so small amount of relief materials," they wondered.
They also alleged the LGED engineer had used owner of Nice Construction Haji Faruk and his corrupt syndicate of contractors to threaten them and get the money.
"Not just the coronavirus crisis, but they would often extort money in the name of throwing party on the occasion of 31st night at LGED office, BBQ party, feast on Victory Day and with other excuses to keep the executive engineer happy," they alleged.
The contractors also added that they were already helping the workers in the sites from humane empathy, there was no need for relief from the LGED.
"We are also sufferers because of the coronavirus crisis, yet we were compelled to fulfil the engineer's wishes."
Acknowledging donating to the fund, former president of the Pabna Chhatra League and a contractor of the Pabna LGED, Ruhul Amin said: "Due to the situation arising from coronavirus, Executive Engineer Badshah Mia said he wanted to form a fund to provide food assistance to 1,500 workers."
"I donated Tk50,000 to fund on his request. Other contractors also donated to the fund in honour of the executive engineer."
Pabna District Commissioner (DC) Kabir Mahmud deemed the LGED executive engineer's forming a fund as immoral and against the law.
"As per the Disaster Management Act 2012 and the directive of the honourable Prime Minister, any relief initiative taken up at the public or private level to deal with the coronavirus situation should be informed to and coordinated by the District Disaster Management Committee," said the Pabna DC.
"Any donation or relief must be deposited to the Deputy Commissioner's Fund. The DC office must also be informed about where these relief materials will be distributed.
"Neither the LGED executive engineer nor contractors informed me about their funding. This is beyond the jurisdiction of the executive engineer," Kabir Mahmud further said.