Though numerous allegations ran rife against the BRRI DG, he continued to be promoted
Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI) Director General Dr Md Shahjahan Kabir faces multiple allegations ranging from physical assault to embezzlement.
Some staffers of the institute alleged that in 2013, Shahjahan Kabir assaulted BRRI scientists. At the time, he was the chief scientific officer at the institute's statistics department. After the incident, an agriculture ministry probe body found him to be the "main planner and instigator."
It seems that the probe did not bother him as Shahjahan Kabir did not face any punishment. He instead rose to the post of director the next year, and subsequently became the director general of BRRI in 2017.
Now, a probe committee of the agriculture ministry summoned the public official over specific allegations including embezzlement, irregularities in worker appointments and abusive behavior toward BRRI scientists.
He will be questioned at the ministry today.
When contacted, Dr Md Shahjahan Kabir told The Business Standard that he would face the probe committee to refute the corruption, irregularity and arbitrariness charges.
"I am not an agriculturist. For that reason, even though I have done a lot of work here, some officials oppose me raising various allegations. But I can tell you that I am not involved in any of those charges," he said.
According to the allegations, after assuming office, Dr Shahjahan: recruited extra workers without ministry approval, led irregularities in promotions and quarter allocations, built a luxury bungalow for himself with the housing funds for the institute director, purchased two luxury cars for himself within just one year, embezzled Tk10 crore in the name of land acquisition and land development, plus was abusive towards his subordinates.
Irregularities in recruitment
There are allegations that Dr Shahjahan recruited extra workers to the BRRI without the agriculture ministry's approval.
The DG on November 8, 2018 sent a letter to the ministry seeking the go-ahead for worker recruitment.
In response, the ministry said there were already 298 extra workers at BRRI who were appointed with the ministry's approval. The agriculture ministry sought an explanation for why new workers would be recruited even after the institute already had additional workers.
After not getting a satisfactory explanation, the ministry in another letter on June 7, 2020 to the DG said, "Recruiting workers without ministry approval is a kind of irregularity and also a violation of the rules."
According to the ministry recruitment policy, BRRI will recruit workers as per the recommendations of its managing committee. The institute director (admin) is the convener of the committee while BRRI Farm Management Division chief will act as the member secretary.
However, the DG allegedly recruited extra workers in January through an assistant director who is not in the managing committee.
Appointing project director by hiding information
Dr Shahjahan on May 27, 2019 sent a proposal to the ministry for appointing senior BRRI senior liaison officer Mohammad Abdul Momin as BRRI Rice Museum project director.
The ministry even approved it, but Abdul Momin was in deputation for higher education at that time which was concealed in the proposal sent to the ministry.
The agriculture ministry, on June 24, 2019 accused the DG of concealing the information. The ministry in the letter said a proposal for tasking someone with an additional project director charge who is already on deputation is completely unacceptable.
The liaison officer, however, is in the project director post though his deputation continues.
Wasting public money
In 2016, the then-BRRI DG Dr Jiban Krishna Biswas took up the repair of the institute's main gate. For the renovation, he tasked the late sculptor Mrinal Haque and the gate was built at a cost of Tk30 lakh.
Dr Shahjahan was the director (admin) of the institute and he wanted to get the renovation work done by his candidate and remove Haque's sculpture. When he assumed the director general office in 2017, the official demolished the newly-built gate and launched re-construction at nearly Tk1 crore. The re-construction is still ongoing.