Network leaders allege graft relief schemes

Network leaders allege graft relief schemes
Many poor people did not get the relief meant for them through the coronavirus pandemic due to the corruption perpetrated by a portion of regional elected representatives, alleged leaders of community-based organisations yesterday.

They made the allegation at a virtual national dialogue titled "Relief Supports to handle Covid-19: How Effective Were They?"

The Centre for Plan Dialogue (CPD) and the Oxfam in Bangladesh organised the event in colaboration with the Citizen's Platform for SDGs, Bangladesh.

A total of 130 people from 13 districts attended the dialogue, where many alleged solvent households were extended the help of the government as the poor did not receive the necessary support.  

"Some solvent persons had received the pain relief," explained Shirina Khanom, a head of a community-established organisation (CBO) in Gaibandha. She alleged some chairmen and participants of the union councils hadn't selected the beneficiaries correctly.

A set of the beneficiaries was well prepared using the countrywide identification cards of the poor. Some of them were given the relief, while the rest got little or nothing, she said.

The representatives of the local government embezzled some of the reliefs, Khanom alleged.

The CPD and the Oxfam have already been implementing a project titled "Enhancing the participation of CBOs and civil society organisations in democratic governance in Bangladesh" with support from europe for the past 3 years.

Jahanara Begum, chairman of the People Rights Committee at Dimla of Nilphamari, alleged that the chairmen and people of union councils hadn't provided assistance properly to the poor under the vulnerable group feeding (VGF) programme.

Amina Akhter, who comes from Mohonganj of Netrokona, said many solvent households had were able to secure relief along with the poor households.

Md Sujaul Islam Suja, president of the Rowmari upazila press golf club, said although satisfactory government supports were obtainable during the pandemic, the assistance went to the same persons because of the lack of a database.

A complete of 2,600 households were determined for the survey, that was completed in January and February. Twenty-four target group discussions took location to verify the information gathered.

The survey covered the beneficiaries permitted receive the help of three relief programmes: cash support to Tk 2,500 to 50 lakh households, and food (rice) distribution, and cash support under gratuitous relief (GR).

A high degree of influence of acquaintance with municipality representatives was cited regarding the the selection method, said Mustafizur Rahman, a distinguished fellow of the CPD, in his keynote paper.

"Transparency is essential while providing relief supports, and there's been some insufficient transparency."

The government had primarily made a decision to give cash support to 50 lakh families whose breadwinners lost jobs as a result of the pandemic-induced slowdown. It prolonged the support to 36 lakh households after getting rid of fake beneficiaries.

Among the respondents whose income declined due to the pandemic, 77.3 per cent didn't receive GR (rice), GR (cash), and Tk 2,500 cash support, the survey report said.

A large number of workers in the informal sector remained beyond your three relief programmes.

Only 20.6 % of day-labours received the support, although it was 32.3 per cent among the respondents who earn a living by pulling three-wheeler rickshaws and vans, the survey found.

"Many of the brand-new poor had been excluded from the 3 packages. These people didn't previously belong to the indegent category. They dropped their incomes through the pandemic," Rahman said.

There was hardly any scope for self-selection for the three programmes, the report said.

Consequently, the share of beneficiaries who had applied independently and got selected was considerably low, accounting for only one 1.4 % in the case of the GR (rice) relief programme, 1.5 % for GR (cash), and 7.6 per cent for the cash support scheme.

The dissemination of info on the hotline was inadequate as only 1 1.6 % of the beneficiaries had been alert to the telephone numbers create to aid them, Rahman said.

Too little an updated database had severely constrained the standard of delivery of the interpersonal safety net programmes, in line with the survey. 

The lack of a central data source for distributing relief packages was affirmed by government officials as well, Rahman said.

The deputy commissioners tried to update the poverty data source made by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics in 2014 to choose the beneficiaries for the relief schemes.

Md Enamur Rahman, talk about minister for disaster management and relief, said people raised no complaints about the ongoing pain relief programmes.

AB Tajul Islam, a lawmaker and the chairman of the parliamentary position committee on the ministry of disaster supervision and alleviation, said corruption found in the alleviation scheme had lessened to a huge extent through the pandemic.

Shameem Haider Patwary, another lawmaker and an associate of the parliamentary position committee on the ministry of rules, justice and parliamentary affairs, recommended the pain relief distribution be predicated on the poverty situation of each district.

Debapriya Bhattacharya, another distinguished fellow of the CPD, said there is too little government and personal initiatives to tackle the next wave of the pandemic.

"The CBOs, NGOs, and media should work together with the government to make sure transparency, accountability and monitoring in alleviation distribution."

M Abu Eusuf, professor of the section of development research at the University of Dhaka; Anir Chowdhury, plan adviser to the Usage of Information program; Tanvir A Mishuk, managing director of Nagad; Fahmida Khatun, executive director of the CPD; and Dipankar Datta, country director of the Oxfam in Bangladesh, likewise spoke.
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