The Ministry of Finance has asked the Bangladesh Shipping Corporation to stop giving its officials the Tk150 per day lunch allowance, and refund the allowance the corporation officials have received for the past 40 years.
The corporation stopped the allowance following the ministry order, but initiatives have yet to be taken to get the allowance refunded.
The corporation staff had been receiving the daily lunch allowance since 1981. In January, the finance ministry ordered the Shipping Corporation to stop the allowance which, it said, was "out of the corporation's jurisdiction".
The Ministry of Shipping made several attempts to persuade the finance ministry to withdraw the order. In March, the shipping ministry sent a letter to the finance ministry requesting that the lunch allowance continue.
But in July, the finance ministry reordered that the allowance is stopped and instructed that the money is given earlier be retrieved.
As per the finance ministry's order, the allowance to the Shipping Corporation staff members ranging from the national pay scale's grade one to 12 has stopped. However, employees belonging to other grades are still getting lunch money.
There is no data available about how much the Shipping Corporation has spent on its staff's lunches in the last four decades.
In fiscal 2018-19, the corporation allocated Tk47 lakh for lunch and snacks; the amount rose to Tk78 lakh in FY20. In the current fiscal year, a Tk78 lakh allocation was sought for lunch and snacks.
According to the national pay scale issued in 2015, public employees from the 11th to 20th pay grade must get a tiffin allowance of Tk200 per month. However, employees who receive a lunch allowance or free lunch from their organisations do not qualify for the allowance.
State Minister for Shipping Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury does not see any problem with the Shipping Corporation officials receiving a lunch allowance as the finance ministry directive asked for stopping the tiffin allowance – not the lunch allowance.
He told a meeting of the shipping ministry last September that the finance ministry had issued instructions to stop the tiffin allowance. But the officials of the corporation are getting a lunch allowance.
"Other corporations also provide their staff members with similar allowances, and therefore the corporation can continue the lunch allowance," he told the meeting.
No statement was available from the corporation in this regard. Company Secretary Khaled Mahmud declined to comment after being contacted multiple times.
Several companies including Biman Bangladesh Airlines and Sadharan Bima Corporation give lunch allowances to their staff.
Additional Secretary to the finance ministry (Regulation) Nazrul Islam was asked why they want to stop the allowance for shipping officials only. He said different corporations are run under different acts and regulations, so it is not possible to comment now without reviewing them.
Asked how allowances of four decades would be refunded, Finance Division officials said if a public employee enjoys any undue benefit, there is a provision that it be refunded from their salary. If the employee retires, the benefit can be recovered from their pension.