Friday, February 11, 2005

BANGLADESH: Uneasy calm at PMO over show-cause

+ Principal Secretary to the PM Dr Kamal Uddin Siddiqui issued the show-cause notice on January 30 asking Shamsul to explain within seven days the purchase of a government house for Tk 2.77 crore in the name of his brother-in-law through auction and living in the house for long. +

Uneasy calm at PMO over show-cause

An uneasy calm is prevailing at the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) over a show-cause notice on an assistant private secretary (APS) to the prime minister for abuse of power and massive corruption.

Sources said the contents of the show-cause notice on APS Shamsul Alam have become a hearsay at the PMO since the major national dailies carried the news on Wednesday and follow-up reports yesterday.

A section of the PMO staff, who are less controversial and do not have any major allegation of corruption against them, have become vocal about it. They are asking top officials and ministers to take immediate action against the APS for the sake of image of the prime minister, they said.

Principal Secretary to the PM Dr Kamal Uddin Siddiqui issued the show-cause notice on January 30 asking Shamsul to explain within seven days the purchase of a government house for Tk 2.77 crore in the name of his brother-in-law through auction and living in the house for long.

Officials of the rank and status of secretary were usually allotted that house at Gulshan, but the APS being a senior assistant secretary-level official was allotted it before he purchased it.

Sources at the PMO also said officials, who made huge money in the last three and a half years, are now panicked about leaking of such reports against them. They are now making all efforts to conceal the matter and lobbying with top officials and BNP leaders for this.

An influential official said the PMO staff are apparently divided over the scandal of the APS, many of them openly siding with him and many others going against him.

The official thinks there may be more such press reports on corruption as both the sides are out to defame each other. "Most rooms at the PMO have become centres of extortion and dens of corruption for long but no actions have been taken in this regard due to unknown reasons," he added.

Talking to The Daily Star, a senior minister on condition of anonymity said the PM in her speeches repeatedly warned against corruption but she does not know how much money was made by some of her personal staff, who sit in her office.

Showing a newspaper report, he said the PM on August 28 in 2002 at Chittagong divisional representatives' meeting in Dhaka said, " Her government's first challenge is to curb crimes and corruption. We are going ahead with specific plans to eliminate these two septic wounds…We have made it clear that whoever is involved in crimes and corruption must face legal action."

On September 4, the PM in a similar programme renewed her commitment to fight poverty, violence, corruption and misuse of the country's resources. "No forbearance, sympathy or mercy will be shown on party or personal grounds. No-one will get any mercy however powerful or whatever post he may hold," she asserted.

Another minister said it was wise for the PM to remove the corrupt officials much earlier but it is high time now to remove them immediately and take legal action against them in the interest of image of the PMO and the government.

If no action is taken against corrupt officials, it would encourage them to step up their corrupt practices as the government's tenure ends next year, the minister thought.