VCs and UGC members on luxury travel in times of austerity

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Today, the Vice Chancellors and Registrars of the 50 public universities will be whisked away to Cox’s Bazar by the University Grants Commission, an exercise expected to cost at least Tk 15 lakh.

And the reason for the trip, which will also include all UGC members in its 25-member contingent, in this time of austerity?

It must sign annual performance agreements with public universities to ensure good governance, transparency, accountability, excellence and good use of resources as well as to improve their institutional capacity.

This begs the question: Couldn’t the agreements be signed at the UGC office in Agargaon, like the previous two years?

“The trip is not only a sheer waste of public money, but also grossly undermines the cause of the National Integrity Strategy,” said Iftekharuzzaman, executive director of Transparency International Bangladesh.

The National Integrity Strategy is the government’s overall strategy to promote good governance and achieve a corruption-free state and society.

“Such luxury tourism in the name of signing agreements to comply with obligations under the NIS by a publicly funded body like the UGC, which is supposed to set examples of integrity for others to follow. others, is unethical and financially unjustified in terms of cost-benefit.”

This is even more blatant at a time when the government, on the instructions of the Prime Minister, has put in place cost-cutting measures.

The purpose of the planned trip could have been much better achieved inexpensively at UGC’s own premises or at a modest, appropriately rented venue in Dhaka, avoiding costly travel, hotel expenses and per diems, Iftekharuzzaman added.

Dil Afroza Begum, acting president of the UGC, defended the state-funded body’s decision to host the two-day event in the seaside town.

“We run the program in Cox’s Bazar because we have a 50% discount. We want a quiet place. We have to talk with the VCs confidentially and face to face. Whenever we run programs in Dhaka, there are so many people – our chat content is still leaking,” she told the Daily Star.

Begum went on to say that the Tk 15 lakh bill for the two-day event, which will see a workshop by Minister of Education Dipu Moni, will be 50% less than it cost for previous editions held. in Bogura, Cumilla and Bandarban.

In 2017 and 2018, the events were held in Bogura and Cumilla and it cost Tk 30 lakh each time, according to UGC officials. The following year, it was held in Bandarban, costing UGC Tk 25 lakh.

Signing ceremonies were mainly held in Dhaka before, said Abdul Mannan, who served as the UGC’s chairman from 2015 to 2019.

“Whenever you hold a seminar, workshop or any other program at Cox’s Bazar, you bring an excursion element,” said Mannan, who is currently a professor at the Liberal Arts University of Bangladesh.

Moreover, no important task can be accomplished if all members and senior officials are absent from the office.

“The government has taken different kinds of austerity measures. It has canceled foreign tours of all government officials. Yes, Cox’s Bazar is not a foreign country, but at the end of the day you have to calculate the All spending ultimately comes from the national treasury,” he added.

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