Over 1 lakh pilgrims will face trouble this year in getting trolley bags in time because of a long-time tussle between the Ministry of Religious Affairs and the Hajj Agencies Association of Bangladesh (HAAB) over the purchase of such bags.
However, the tussle may come to an end soon, as the ministry backtracked on its decision to award tender by ignoring the HAAB's right to purchasing such bags and eventually gave in to the HAAB demand.
"This association will now be given the responsibility of the purchase, as it used to purchase such bags in previous years as per Hajj policy," a high official at the ministry told the Daily Observer on Tuesday, wishing not to be named.
According to the people close to Hajj procedures, the ministry-HAAB conflict ensued when the ministry had floated tender to buy trolley bags this year. Consequently, HAAB leaders disputed the matter while the tender awarding process is almost complete.
Meanwhile, the ministry will have to face problems regarding the purchase of trolley bags as it may take more times to wrap up the tender procedure.
According to the Hajj policy, it's mandatory for the pilgrims to carry similar bags for their easy identification. A Bangladeshi national flag would be printed on its cover.
To buy the trolley bags, each of the pilgrims has to pay Tk1,700. Though the money was deposited in HAAB account earlier, the Religious Affairs Ministry had taken the money in its account this year without informing the HAAB, sources said.
The HAAB leaders brought the issue before Religious Affairs Minister Matiur Rahman while the Ministry floated tender. But, ignoring the dispute of HAAB leaders, the Ministry continued the process and received four tender documents from the bidders.
Of the bidders, Meghna Enterprise has given a rate of Tk1,695 for each bag, while Vertex Enterprise has become the second highest bidders giving a Tk1,690 rate. The New Exim Enterprise has become the lowest bidder giving a rate of Tk1,430.
But in the primary scrutiny, the Ministry had to reject the document of New Exim, which was blessed by Ministry's Secretary, as it was submitted without any sample of bags.
Finally, Vertex, backed by Shanto, the Religious Minister's son, and the minister's APS, remains as the lone responsive bidder. Vertex will also have to lose the race if the Ministry cancels the tender process, the Ministry officials said.
They claim that the Ministry finally decided to cancel the process as the Secretary failed to ensure the tender for the company he backed.
The Secretary allegedly offered the Vertex to deal with him by giving a handsome amount. But, the owners of the company denied paying such a huge amount to the Secretary. A conflict has created between the Minister's son and the Secretary, which may lead to handing over the bag purchasing process to the HAAB.
When asked, Secretary Chowdhury Babul Hasan rejected the allegation of his involvement with any irregularity or bribery regarding the bag buying process.
He said that the Ministry decided to hand it over to the HAAB following the existing hajj policy. "Floating of the tender process was a mistake," he said.
Religious Affairs Minister Matiur Rahman also rejected the allegation of their involvement saying, "They will be punished if anybody can prove the allegation."