Implementation Monitoring and Evaluation Division (IMED) Secretary Abul Mansur Md Faizullah has recommended a reform of the outsourcing process to curb wastage of government money.
He made the recommendation on Thursday in response to an explanation sought by Planning Minister MA Mannan in the context of an article titled "Zoom meetings with zooming expenses," published by The Business Standard on July 11.
The IMED secretary said, "The IMED should reduce steps regarding impact assessment and in-depth monitoring in various development projects through a more efficient outsourcing process. The number of projects should be reduced too.
"A broad selection of quality funds will help ensure quality evaluation of the projects and save the government's money."
The article, which delved deep into the issue, revealed that IMED officials are now collecting a significant amount of money from the government in the form of allowances for participating in online meetings organised in the fiscal year 2019-20 to do impact assessment and in-depth monitoring of 72 projects.
The IMED held more than half of the 300 meetings through a video communications application named "Zoom" during that period.
Although the workshops were online, all the participants have already collected a bill of over Tk1.38 crore in cash in lieu of stationery items such as bags, folders, pens, pads, etc.
After the news article was published, the planning minister sought a written explanation from the IMED secretary over the matter. The secretary then prepared an explanation report after meeting with eight director generals of the division.
Speaking to The Business Standard, IMED Secretary Abul Mansur said, "I am perturbed over the fact that the director generals have concealed so much information from me. The explanation report will be presented to the planning minister next Sunday."
In his explanation, the IMED secretary said he has learned that a significant number of IMED officials participated in the Zoom meetings. Further investigation revealed that Tk57.6 lakh has been shown as expenditure for food in the meetings held only on Zoom.
Providing explanation about the matter of IMED officials collecting huge amounts of cash as bills to cover the cost of stationeries, Abul Mansur stated that not all systems can be changed overnight.
IMED sources claimed that many of these officials use the outsourcing process to make large sums of money.
The secretary claimed that because of his initiatives, the "office supporting expenses" has been shut down, which in turn allowed the government to save Tk1.30 crore since the last year. Under this expense, secretaries used to get Tk20,000 for each project.
Abul Mansur continued, "If I had not closed this sector, I could have earned Tk1,440,000. The income of many IMED officials has dropped by up to Tk5 lakh because of the move, and many are angry at me for such a step.
"I only collected the honorarium set by the planning ministry, and did not make any money through the outsourcing process."
In the explanation report, he also mentioned recently returning Tk15 lakh to the government on ethical grounds. He also returned Tk80 lakh to the government from Tk24 crore allocated for the outsourcing process.
Sources said Joint Secretary of IMED's Administration Wing Mahmudul Haque has collected Tk25,500 from each of the 72 projects under the manpower supporting expenses, taking Tk1,836,000 in total. He withdrew the money from the projects without any signature or evidence.
He distributed the money from director generals to peons, but it is unclear who received what amount of money, the sources added. The IMED secretary did not get any money from this sector, and he was not informed about the withdrawal of the money.