Energy Bangla

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Dhaka Saturday,  Mar 23, 2019

Tip of the iceberg

Shahed Siddique 

The much-talked-about disappearance of 1.42 lakh tonnes of coal from three yards of Barapukuria Coal Mining Company Ltd (BCMCL) seems only to be tip of the iceberg concerning years of malpractice in the state-run entity which is currently under probe. The Independent found that since the beginning of its operation in 2005, the BCMCL has never shown the actual amount of coal available in the yards to account for the system losses or irregularities that occurred at the mine. Also, it has always manipulated the balance sheet to maximise the profit bonuses given to company officials.

Petrobangla insiders admitted that most of the top officials of the BCMCL have taken around Tk 14-16 lakh each in profit bonuses every year.

The company has earned Tk 313 crore in 2017 as net profit and 5 per cent of this amount was shared by 142 permanent officials, according to the BCMCL annual report, a copy of which has been obtained.

In the year, officers drew Tk 1.69 crore in salary and Tk 8 crore in gratuity alone, sources said adding that the officers pocketed more than Tk 7 crore as profit share and other benefits.

Official records of this coal mining company has never adjusted the system losses occurring in a coal mine due to washout in rainwater, dust, moisture, and spontaneous combustion.

The discrepancies between the coal available at the yard as per the company’s record and the actual coal available was unearthed recently after a board member of the Bangladesh Power Development Board (PDB) visited the coal yard site.

As per the audit record of the BCMCL, which it submitted to Petrobangla in June this year, the coal available at its yards was 3.18 lakh tonnes. But a few days after the audit, the PDB official found that not a single tonne of coal was available at one of the yard sites, even though it was supposed to contain 1.42 lakh tonnes of coal. This mysterious disappearance of such a large amount of coal immediately triggered concern.

A three-member probe team, headed by the Petrobangla director Md Kamruzzaman, has been formed to investigate the incident.

Talking  Petrobangla Chairman Abul Mansur Mohammad Faizullah said “The issue is under investigation but it appears that “theft of coal” could have taken place at the BCMCL site. “The disappearance of such a large amount of coal is a matter of concern,” he said.

He also said that natural loss of coal usually took place at the coal yard because of several reasons. “But it’s obviously not acceptable that such a large amount of coal would simply evaporate due to natural loss,” he added.

Some BCMCL officials, however, attributed the disappearance of the coal to natural loss, which is known as system loss. Interestingly, before this incident, the company has never shown any system loss in its record book as such disclosure would have hampered the profit bonuses of the company officials.

BCMCL general manager (finance) Gopal Chandra Saha admitted to The Independent that the company’s balance sheet has never shown any system loss. “The mining department has never given any such data to us. We had to work with their data,” he said.

Talked with Saiful Islam Sarkar, general manager of the mining department, who admitted that the system loss of coal deposits in the yard was never calculated. “It’s not easy to calculate such system loss,” he said.

He also said the three yard sites have always had the necessary stocks. “This is the first time that such an incident has happened,” he added.

“We never calculate the system loss because the three yards never stay empty. Right now, we’re not producing any coal and thus the stock has become dry. Now we realise that the stock has not been calculated properly,” he added.

The Petrobangla chairman said it would be investigated as to why the company has never incorporated any system loss in their record book. “The three-member probe team is working on the matter. We’ll be able to unearth what really happened to the coal yard,” he added.

The probe committee head, Md Kamruzzmaan, said they already have finished the ground investigation. “We have a deadline for submitting the report. It’s not possible to say anything conclusive just now,” he added.

He also said they had taken the discrepancies in the balance sheet and the record book into account.

According to Petrobangla, the BCMCL has so far produced a total of 10,030,445 metric tonnes of coal.

The year-wise coal produced by the company is: 178,181 tonnes in FY2005-2006, 303,016 tonnes in FY2006-2007, 388,376 tonnes in FY2007-08, 677,098 tonnes in FY2007-2008, 827,845 tonnes in FY2008-09, 704,658 tonnes in FY2009-10, 666,635 tonnes in FY2010-2011, 835,000 tonnes in FY2011-12, 854,804 tonnes in FY2012-13, 947,124 tonnes in FY2013-14, 677,775 tonnes in FY2014-15, 1,021,638 tonnes in FY2014-15, 1,168,170 tonnes in FY2016-2017 and 923,276.08 tonnes in FY2017-18.

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