The monthly basic salary of Md Ali Akkas, an electrician of Chattogram Water Supply and Sewerage Authority (Wasa) is Tk20,810. In July this year, he earned Tk36,270 in overtime pay
Akkas worked overtime for staggering 200 hours that month – almost 6.5 hours besides the eight hours of regular shift a day.
In the same month last year – when his basic salary was Tk19,810 – his overtime earning was Tk38,251.
The information has been collected from the salary sheets from July 2017 to July 2019, and other documents of Chattogram Wasa obtained by The Business Standard.
The documents reveal many such cases of ghost overtimes of Wasa staff members besides other irregularities.
According to the documents, Akkas has been earning almost double his basic salary from nearly 200 hours of overtime every month since 2017. That means he has been working more than 14 hours a day at the booster station of Chattogram Wasa in Bahaddarhat.
Like Ali Akkas, his colleagues Mahabubul Alam Miah and Md Ajmal also earned unusual amounts as overtime compensation. Working as pump operators their monthly basic salary is Tk19,810, but each of them earned Tk27,474 extra from overtime.
Another employee named Nizam Uddin, a motor mechanic, earned Tk28,251 from overtime every month.
The documents reveal that 17 of the 20 employees at the booster station have been withdrawing more in overtime payments than their salaries.
In July, Wasa paid Tk302,600 as salary while Tk331,168 was paid for overtime for these 20 staff members at the booster station. In July last year, Wasa's salary expenditure was Tk277,350 and overtime payment was Tk328,286. In the same month of 2017, the expenditure for salary was Tk264,480 and that for overtime was Tk340,758.
When contacted, Md Ali Akkas said, "I had to work extra hours because of the shortage of workers. I had to work overtime for long hours."
Interestingly, his supervisor Sarfaraj Akter, the executive engineer of the booster station who had approved the overtime, said he had "no idea how he [Akkas] worked 200 hours".
"An employee is eligible for highest 152 hours of overtime work every month," Sarfaraj told The Business Standard.
Almost similar situation has been found at other stations of Chattogram Wasa where the authorities have been spending a large amount of money for unusual overtime bills.
An investigation found that 49 Chattogram Wasa employees, including pump operators, electricians, helpers, cleaners and lab assistants, at the booster station of Sheikh Hasina Water Treatment Plant, Mod 1, 2, 3 and 4 have been withdrawing big sums in overtimes.
Chattogram Wasa paid Tk480,261 for overtime while the total salary of 34 employees of Sheikh Hasina Water Treatment Plant was Tk452,740 in July 2018. In July this year, Wasa spent Tk498,779 for overtime while the salary was Tk475,050.
As per the documents, 229 pump operators and electricians of Chattogram Wasa withdrew around Tk34 lakh as overtime in July 2019.
Every year Wasa spends Tk5.19 crore as overtime and Tk4.16 crore as salaries of its employees.
It is alleged that Wasa staff and officers have been showing extra working hours in documents to get extra payment despite having enough manpower.
Superintend Engineer Maksudul Alam, who is responsible for approving overtime of the employees, said, "It is not my fault because the executive engineers of the departments concerned prepare the roster and approved the overtime bills."
Chattogram Wasa Managing Director Engineer AKM Fazullah said, "To run the pumps sometimes we have to allow overtime hours. But we are also aware of the excessive amount of overtime. We are trying to reduce overtime of our employees."
Overtime at closed pumps too!
According to Chattogram Wasa, currently three water pumps are active at Mod 3 (Bahaddarhat, Chandagaon, Bakolia and Khatungonj areas) while 36 pumps have been closed since October 2018.
But Wasa authorities have not withdrawn the employees from these pumps.
These employees have also been drawing payments for overtime.
In a closed water pump inside Kalurghat booster, an operator named Mujibul Haque said, "The pump is closed but we have to stay here as per Wasa directive. Three pump operators work here following a roster. The permanent employees get overtime."
Another pump operator named Abdullah Al Hossain from Bahaddarhat said the same.
In July this year, three employees named Wahidur Rahman, Akhter Hamid Khan and Gias Uddin Murshed of Pump 4 on Khaja Road in Bahaddarhat submitted bills for 376 hours of overtime along with the regular duty of 528 hours. That means they worked 904 hours in a single month or 29 hours every day.
Managing Director AKM Fazullah said the employees have been kept at the pumps so they can operate the pumps in case of any accidental failure at the Madhunaghat Water Treatment Plant. However, in the last 12 months, no such incident happened.
As per documents, Chattogram Wasa's 49 permanent employees in Mod 3 work overtime for around 5,820 hours every month, which translates into Tk8.38 lakh, while their basic salary is Tk7.37 lakh.
Earlier, 229 permanent employees of Chattogram Wasa were running 94 water pumps (deep tube-wells), booster stations and treatment plants. Here on average overtime pay was Tk30.75 lakh every month in fiscal year 2015-16.
In 2016, Wasa hired 155 people as outsourcers to reduce the amount of unusual overtime which cost Tk18.60 lakh per month.
Chattogram Wasa has also closed 53 water pumps since then but the overtime bills have not stopped.
In 2016-17, overtime per month amounted to Tk30.75 lakh. In 2018-19, the amount was Tk34.67 lakh.