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BTCL plagued with bribery, influence. Daily Star

BTCL plagued with bribery, influence

Customers bribe linemen, clerks for phone connections; ministry's influence major hurdle, says TIB study

Staff Correspondent

Most of the BTCL customers have to pay an average of Tk 6,000 as bribe for telephone connection, revealed a report of Transparent International Bangladesh yesterday.

Under its research report titled "Lack of good governance in government's telecom sector and the way forward" TIB also identified telecom ministry's interference in BTCL as one of the major hurdles.

In the current nine-member board, BTCL has only three private sector representatives.

TIB organised a roundtable on publication of its report at CIRDAP auditorium in Dhaka. Dipu Roy and Shadhon Kumar Das, fellows (research and policy) of TIB conducted the survey.

The state-run BTTB (Bangladesh Telegraph and Telephone Board) was transformed into a public limited company BTCL (Bangladesh Telecommunications Company Limited) in July 2008 with a view to providing better service.

According to the report, two-third of BTCL customers bribe linemen and clerks. Of BTCL's nine lakh customers, 18 percent obtained illegal connections, 28 percent bribed linemen while 21 percent linemen and clerks for faster connection.

About 71 percent respondents said they had to pay Tk 2,050 as bribe for transferring phone lines. Of them 64 percent had to pay the money to the linemen.

As per the report, 74 percent customers complained of the billing system itself while 49 percent claimed that they had been receiving abnormal bills.

Meanwhile, 38 percent customers said they were happy with the BTCL service in the last one year while 49 percent expressed dissatisfaction.

Chairman of TIB Trustee Board M Hafizuddin Khan and its member Iftekharuzzaman, Chairman of Parliamentary Standing Committee on Ministry of Post and Telecommunications Hasanul Huq Inu and Managing Director of BTCL SM Khabiruzzaman were present at yesterday's roundtable.

TIB conducted the survey between September 2007 and January 2010. It used two data sources for the study. Primarily, TIB collected information through customer survey, focused group-discussions with linemen, Internet service providers and journalists.

Their related research include annual reports, economic survey, investigation reports of Criminal Investigation Department, National Taskforce and Anti-Corruption Commission, audit reports, media reports and website news.

The study also found irregularities in recruitment and transfers, auditing and training management, transportation expenditure, implementation of projects and billing system.

However, the report said after the BTTB had been made a public limited company, its transportation cost reduced significantly from Tk 5.41 crore in 2006-07 to Tk 70 lakh at present.

BTCL's project implementation rate remained the same as BTTB's. It took 11 projects, which are still limited in planning and tendering process.

At the roundtable, Hasanul Haq Inu said if a secretary of a ministry leads the board of a public limited company it would not function as expected. He said, "If BTCL wants to compete with other operators, it has to bring changes to its organogram."

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