The Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) has stated that there are irregularities and mismanagement in the government's distribution of relief to people hit by the ongoing flood.
"The allocated relief for flood victims is less than adequate. A relatively low amount of relief has been allocated in districts having a larger number of victims. The process of selecting beneficiaries has also been marred by nepotism and politicisation," the CPD added.
The independent think tank made the allegations on Tuesday at a virtual dialogue titled "Relief Programme for tackling Corona and Flood: Effectiveness of Government Services."
Speakers at the programme also claimed that the real victims of the flood are being deprived because the relief is being distributed without any scrutiny.
The event was jointly organised by the CPD, Oxfam in Bangladesh, RDRS Bangladesh and Citizen's Platform for SDGs under the project "Participation of Public Institutions for Democratic Good Governance."
Distinguished Fellow of the CPD Prof Mustafizur Rahman chaired the programme, while Dr Debapriya Bhattacharya, another distinguished fellow of the think tank and convener of Citizen's Platform for SDGs, addressed at the event.
CPD's Executive Director Dr Fahmida Khatun, NGO Affairs Bureau's Director General Md Rashedul Islam and Oxfam in Bangladesh's Country Director Dr Dipankar Datta also spoke at the virtual dialogue.
Dr Debapriya Bhattacharya urged the government to work together with civil society, non-government organisations (NGO) and local representatives to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic and flood.
To ensure transparency in allocation and distribution of relief goods, he advised authorities concerned to disclose all relevant information and conduct a widespread campaign among the possible beneficiaries.
He added, "More in-depth review should be conducted regarding the amount of relief, process of distribution, additional costs for distribution, and whether the beneficiaries are spending extra money to get the relief.
"The people of Bangladesh are facing two disasters – the novel coronavirus pandemic and flood – simultaneously. When a victim gets Tk500 from the government social safety net, the person is no longer getting any Covid-19 assistance."
Dr Debapriya questioned, "How will the ultra-poor survive with just Tk500?"
At the discussion, CPD's Senior Research Associate Mostafa Amir Sabbih presented a keynote paper on the government's relief distribution activities to counter the Covid-19 and flood at Kaunia upazila in Rangpur.
He stated, "The process to select beneficiaries for Tk2,500 cash support amid the pandemic was not fair and transparent. There are complaints that politicisation and nepotism were widespread in the process.
"The local representatives collected voter IDs and mobile numbers only from their associates and party members."
The keynote paper also mentions that despite the government directing authorities concerned to distribute 20 kilograms of rice to each family, beneficiaries received only 10 kilograms each.
Besides, a sack holding 50 kgs of rice was distributed to every five beneficiaries, and Tk50 was collected from them as a cost for the sack. No effective measures were taken to receive and resolve the complaints over the relief distribution programme, the paper read.
There are complaints from the field level that some people opened mobile banking accounts after getting listed as beneficiaries, and received confirmation through SMS, but they did not receive the Tk2,500 cash support, the paper read.
The rice distribution programme also did not reflect the need of people hit by the flood, the keynote mentioned.
It added that the government allocated 860 tonnes of rice as relief to 250,520 flood affected people in the Kurigram district, while 510 tonnes of rice were allocated to 27,080 flood victims in the Nilphamari district.
So, as relief, 75.3 kgs of rice was allocated to each family in Nilphamari, but only 13.7 kgs of rice was allocated to each family in Kurigram, the paper stated.
Admitting that there were some inconsistencies in the allocation of flood relief relative to the population, Rangpur Deputy Commissioner Md Asib Ahsan said, "Additional relief is needed in regions where people suffered more losses.
"A DO letter has been issued by the local lawmaker over the matter."
He added, "Committees, composed of people from all corners of society, have been formed at the district, upazila and even union levels over the relief distribution. If the committees did their job, there should be no irregularities regarding the relief distribution."
NGO Affairs Bureau's Director General Md Rashedul Islam and Oxfam said, "Under the special consideration of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Tk2,500 has been allocated for each person who became jobless due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
"There is no possibility of corruption and irregularities in the distribution of this money."
Kaunia Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO) Ulfat Ara Begum said, "Most of the time, a gap can be observed in the supply and need of relief, and this is also the case now. Many did not get relief, but relief goods were distributed to them after they called the local administration."