‘Pillow - talks’ to ‘pillow fights’
Published : Friday, 24 May, 2019 at 12:00 AM Count : 217
Fascinatingly, this Ramadan it's pillow talks and fights to have presided over Iftar politics.
The countrywide gossip to have erupted over procuring pillows for abnormally high prices to furnish apartments in multi-storey buildings at the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant Project (RNPP) has now taken a dramatic turn with a twist.
A leading AL politician--cum -spokeswoman has now made it her sacred mission to dig deeper, so to find the correct pillow to hit back to her political opponent. However, referring to a government purchase slip number of the year 1991, she stated in a TV talk show that when Khaleda Zia had first assumed power in the same year, no less than half a dozen pillows were imported from Paris for her personal use. Each of them were priced at 78, 000 Taka (not sure if the estimated price is of today's currency value), and that's not all, over all alleged corruption charges surrounding the RNPP project the two main political rivals seems to have been bitterly divided accusing one another in the midst of a auspicious and a revered month.
A number of our politicians have all of a sudden become vocal over corruption over pillow prices turning the conversation into needless 'political pillow talks'.
The essence in the RNPP procurement deals is all about financial corruption, whether it is pillow, mosquito net or blanket.
The point, however, corruption in government procurement deals of almost any item--ranging from importing foodstuff to lethal weapons for defence establishments -- are in some way complimented with 'miscellaneous and invisible costs'. And most of the time the detailed expenditure breakdown of our mega projects are overlooked and deliberately ignored, otherwise syndicates will fail to make a quick buck out of these deals. Ledgers to balance sheets of our mega projects are perhaps the most complex and mysterious on earth, costs are likely to shoot up without reasons and explanations, and to some extent the upcoming power plant at Rooppur is not an exception.
What happened over buying and carrying pillows for a nuclear power plant project actually hints at a much serious sinister side of a morally degenerating and a growing corrupt culture.
The scale and degree of financial corruption has gone below the rock-bottom in Bangladesh, so much so that corruption perhaps needs a new definition based on a new set of legal and moral set of parameters.
Terms such as--under invoicing, over invoicing, over or excessive charging, extortion to kickbacks needs to be redefined as well. That's not all, the recent 'pillow talks' somehow compels us to ask even more hesitant questions.
Have our mega projects become devoid of regularity and monitoring departments? Isn't there any authority to hold corrupt officials accountable for their misdeeds? More to it, how come eye-opening fraud incidents are only addressed following a major news report or an investigative discovery? Can't our project managers-in-charge of mega projects investigate into internal mismanagement and irregularities by their own and take action?
The current government, bolstered by the PM's zero-tolerance stance against corruption must prove its sincerity and commitment. Obviously, none expects the PM to intervene in each and every running mega projects in the country, but the need of the minute is to ensure maximum transparency and accountability in all our small and big projects. That said - the degree of corruption cannot always be measured with a specified index. On that note Bangladesh is failing to curb corruption miserably.
Enough government money has been illegally spent, stolen and laundered abroad by a dubious few and now is the time to clip their wings while exposing them under the spotlight.
A crime is a crime and it needs to be condemned by all while the criminal is correctly reprimanded. It's rather comical that while talking with the media both the government and its political opponents in our country condemn corruption together but repeatedly fails to address it.
A shocking revelation of deceit must not engage political rivals in accusing each other needlessly--in fact the disclosure must act as a wakeup call before a situation goes out of control and unite all. Believe it or not-- corruption in numerous forms, in this country, has gone far beyond our control. Buying pillows for an exorbitant price for a government project is merely the tip of the iceberg.
Addressing our politicians, this is no time for pointless pillow fights over ridiculous pillow prices. It's time to stand together against the pillow seller and figure out how he managed to sell the pillows for absurd prices? Why the government bought them and who sleeps in them?
No matter how soft these expensive RNPP pillows appear to be, there is no pillow as soft as a clear conscience. The ones who had produced, sold and bought these pillows don't have it.
The writer is editor-in-charge, editorial section, The Daily Observer