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Corporate - July 31, 2022

Where corruption spreads like cancer

3D, 2D seismic project of BAPEX

Tk 610 cr misappropriated

Golam Mostafa Jibon: Allegation has intensified that “Bangladesh Petroleum Exploration and Production Company Limited” (BAPEX) has now turned into a den of corruption and irregularities due to continuous abusing of power by some unscrupulous and influential officials. As a result, crores of Taka is downing the drain on the tip of nose of the authorities concerned, but to no headache of anyone.
There is a complaint that, “Even after existing of several evidences and proofs of corruption and irregularities, Bangladesh Petroleum Exploration and Production Company Limited (BAPEX) did not take any visible action against those, who are directly and indirectly involved with misappropriating crores of Taka.
It has been alleged that, Tk 610 crore has been plundered by some unscrupulous officials in the name of gas exploration under BAPEX’s 3D and 2D seismic project. Along with this, crores of Taka has been misappropriated by some obscure companies using fake documents.
In addition to the office of the Managing Director (MD) of BAPEX, meanwhile several written complaints have been submitted to the Ministry of Power, Energy and Mineral Resources, Bangladesh Oil, Gas and Mineral Resources Corporation (Petrobangla), and even the office of the Chairman of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) in this regard.
The information of looting crores of Taka through massive corruption and irregularities has come out in the report of the investigation team formed by Petrobangla.
The committee also recommended stern action against the accused Meherul Hasan, Deputy General Manager (DGM) and 3D Seismic Project Director of BAPEX. After getting the reality of misappropriating hundreds of crores of Taka in the name of the project, it has been submitted to the investigation report to the office along with the evidence; But this network of corruption is so strong that no action has been taken against the involved. However, the ACC has taken under cognition the allegations of unlimited corruption of the BAPEX.
The agency has launched an investigation against the involved.
On March 31, Assistant Director of ACC Muhammad Shihab Salam summoned eight Deputy General Managers (DGM) and 10 officials of various project director (PD) ranks associated with BAPEX’s 3D and 2D seismic projects and conceptual projects. Some of these officers were called to the ACC office along with necessary documents and interrogated. Some are prohibited from leaving the workplace, including going abroad. A letter has also been written to the Managing Director (MD) of BAPEX to hand over any audit or internal investigation on the concerned projects to the ACC.
At the same time, information regarding the physical and financial progress of the projects has been sought. Although, these documents were supposed to be given on April 10, BAPEX did not submit in time. According to ACC sources, all the files of the contractor firm ‘Arnib Enterprises’ involved in these projects will be summoned.
In view of allegations of misappropriation of hundreds of crores of Taka without working on the project, the officials who have been summoned by the SEC are: DGM and 3D Seismic Project Director (PD) of BAPEX Mehrul Hasan, DGM and PD of 2D Seismic Project Sabiha Akhtar Khanom, DGM (Engineering) and Project Director of Rupkalp-1 Mizanur Rahman Chowdhury, DGM (Mining) and PD of Rupkalp-2 project Zahurul Islam; DGM and Project PD of Rupkalp-3 Mizanur Rahman; DGM (Excavation) and PD of Rupkalp-4 Fazlur Rahman; Manager (Chemistry) and PD of Rupkalp-5 Tofail Ahmed Shikder; Manager (Geography) and Rupkalp-9 (2D Seismic) PD Md. Tariqul Islam; DGM (Geology) and PD of 2D Seismic Survey over Exploration Block-3B, 6B and 7 Moinul Hossain and DGM (Engineering) and project PD for the purchase of a drilling rig and work over rig and other auxiliary equipment by BAPEX Abdur Rauf.
Petrobangla chairman Nazmul Ahsan said, no action was taken against those involved even after the allegations were proved in the investigation, reports were submitted to the concerned department after investigating the irregularities in the projects before I joined here. As a result, the authorities will be able to decide the appropriate action. I am not aware of the details. I have come to know that ACC has recently summoned some officials of BAPEX after receiving some complaints of irregularities and corruption. But ACC has not asked us anything in this regard till now. Petrobangla will assist ACC if any information is required for the purpose of investigation. It is known that many of those who have been summoned by the ACC have repeatedly given the work to the same company without tender. Hundreds of crores of Taka has been embezzled through the syndicate in connivance with the related companies. Of them, the most allegations are against DGM Mehrul Hasan. His syndicate has grabbed Tk 248 crore by giving work without tender, hiring workers and purchasing machineries. He awarded a good number of works to Arnib Enterprises, owned by Mahbub Uddin Ahmad Bir Bikram, also President of Bangladesh Inland Waterways (passenger carriers) Association, without tender in exchange of bribery. In the investigation about the irregularities in these works, Arnib Enterprises in collaboration with DGM Meherul Hasan has surveyed nine places at a cost of Tk 247.70 crore. Some of these places are big, some are very small. Regardless of location, the same equipment and workers are shown for each. As a result, the rate of expenditure has also been equalized, so that the impression of irregularity is clear. BAPEX also formed a committee to investigate the allegations.
Regarding the complaint, BAPEX Managing Director Mohammad Ali said, ACC has asked for some documents regarding some of their officers, which have been provided. As the ACC is investigating the complaint, it would not be appropriate to comment in this matter. We conduct departmental investigations against all types of irregularities. None will be spared, if the allegations brought against BAPEX officers are proved in the investigation; there will be no disruption in this case either.
According to BAPEX sources, a company has done three-dimensional (3D) seismic survey work without tender. The investigation committee has raised several allegations of irregularities in the project worth about Tk 250 crore. The organization implementing the project claims that 1,200 workers worked daily at nine locations throughout the year. Even in nine surveys, they showed the same amount of vehicle usage. BAPEX has carried out geological survey work in an area of 2700 square kilometers. Some 91 percent of its work has been completed. The expenditure has been estimated at Tk 16.88 crore. For the remaining nine parts of the project, the allocation is Tk 5.21 crore. Questions have been raised over the account in the report of the investigation committee.
According to the report, there were 1200 people working full-time in winter, summer and monsoon. It shows the expenditure on manpower is Tk 80 crores. And the cost of the vehicle showed Tk 80 crore. However, the survey areas included 150, 200, 300 and 600 square kilometers. There too the same workers and the same number of vehicles are shown. Meanwhile, it has been alleged that the equipment has been purchased without following the rules in the project. Equipment worth Tk 2.80 crore in the first phase and Tk 14.8 crore in the second phase were purchased, but they did not arrive. Apart from this, Tk 58.50 crore and 156.15 crores have been spent on preparation of technical specifications.
While this correspondent tried to contact with Mehrul Hasan, Deputy General Manager and Director of 3D Seismic Project of BAPEX several time over cell phone, he did not respond until filing this report yesterday evening.
According to the complaint filed with the ACC, Petrobangla’s investigation into BAPEX’s 3D and 2D Seismic projects revealed massive irregularities and corruption of Tk 610 crore.
BAPEX’s influential official DGM Meherul Hasan in collaboration with some of his syndicate members misappropriated crores of Taka in the name of different projects by showing false and fake LC and documents. How the looting was carried out the matter was proved earlier in the investigation reports of BAPEX and Petrobangla. 3D Seismic spent about Tk 247 crore on the project, which did not come to fruition. Some 45 percent of the project cost was carried out from foreign fund. For the implementation of this project, international open tenders was invited for purchase of equipment-software related to survey, seismic line design, data collection and data processing. But a particular company was given the work order instead of calling for re-tenders after submission of one tender.
Goods of Tk 30 crores in Appraisal of Gas Fields (3D Seismic) project were also looted through gross corruption. The project PD could not explain about the purchased goods to the investigation committee. Those who raise allegations of corruption are either harassed or forced to transfer from BAPEX through intimidation, it is alleged.

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