BAEC chief does it and defends it
Mon, Oct 3rd, 2011 9:15 pm BdST
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Nurul Islam Hasib
bdnews24.com Senior Correspondent

Dhaka, Oct 3 (bdnews24.com) – It may not call public attention and generate much interest if a junior official abuses his power, position and privileges. But not so if the official in question happens to be the likes of the Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission (BAEC) chairman.

bdnews24.com has learned that Abu Sayeed Mohammad Firoz, who was in Vienna, Austria for a conference recently, chose not just to overstay there but also charge his office Business class airfare, though he actually travelled in Economy class.

The chairman returned on Sep 30 after his extended Vienna trip.

bdnews24.com has obtained a copy of the government order clearing his Vienna trip, an e-ticket and an office copy of the total expenses borne by the state-owned Commission on account of his visit.

The government dated Aug 25 said he would leave Dhaka for Vienna on Sep 15 or on a nearer date and would leave Vienna for Dhaka on Sep 24 or on a nearer date.

He would attend "the 55th general conference of International Atomic Energy Agency from Sep 19 to 23", it added.

But surprisingly, Firoz claimed and was paid expenses for 14 days' stay, instead of the sanctioned 10 days, even before he left for Vienna.

According to an office copy of the Commission, he took a total of Tk 546,510, inclusive of Business class airfare Tk 247,750.

But his e-ticket suggests he travelled in Economy class, cost of which was Tk 1,33,783 including taxes.

When countered, the chairman initially denied his travelling in Economy class, but when reminded of his e-ticket, he said, "It's not a problem."

"I am entitled for Business class. The money is allocated for me. If I took the pain (of travelling in Economy class) and saved the money, then what's the harm…it's mine," he said.

"No, no, there's a problem," said former secretary Dhiraj Kumar Nath. "I don't agree with his argument."

"He (chairman) has dishonored the country as well as his institution," Nath, himself a former adviser to the caretaker government, said.

"The government entitled him for Business class airfare just to uphold country's image as well as his institution's. He has downgraded his position as well as the country's image."

"It's unethical. He is not supposed to get the money he is claiming as his own," Nath observed.

The former secretary also said one could stay beyond one's stipulated time under extra-ordinary circumstances.

"But then in that case, people won't take money in advance," he said adding, "In this case, it seems preplanned."

However, chairman Firoz insisted the government order he received was 'flexible'. "It (GO) says I can return on a date nearer to Sep 24."

"Besides, I also attended another conference," he argued, though declined to give any details of the 'another conference' he took part in after Sep 24.

An additional secretary of the Bangladesh government requesting anonymity told bdnews24.com, according to the rules, one must explain the reason for overstay, in case the situation warranted so. "And the argument must be accepted by the authority. Or else, he will not get money for the period overstayed."